Some people — even self-proclaimed Christians — today have one basic belief about the Bible — that it shouldn't be believed! But things didn't used to be that way. Prior to the late 20th century, virtually all people who claimed to be Christians understood Scripture to be inspired and preserved — in other words, sacred. They believed God had given us His Word and that these Scriptures were to be followed. The Bible is supposed to judge us, but some people would like to judge the Bible instead.
However, the Bible is trustworthy, and that trustworthiness begins with the core truth of inspiration: The Bible was written by God through men.
Many skeptics have pointed out that the Bible is not proven to be God's Word just because some of its verses say so. Then we come to The Da Vinci Code, a novel by Dan Brown that mixes historical fact with fiction to confuse people about the authenticity of the Bible. The book raises a number of questions: "Is it true that man wrote the Bible hundreds of years after Jesus lived?" "Did people really fight over what the Bible was going to say?" "What if the things that ended up in the Bible weren't what God really meant the Bible to say?"
Christians have answers because the Bible's divine origin is supported by compelling evidence.
The entire Bible was written by about 40 individuals over 1,500 years. These writers included a farmer (Amos), a doctor (Luke), ministers (such as Ezra and James), political leaders (David, Solomon), political prisoners (Daniel, John), a musician (Asaph), a fisherman (Peter) and a tax collector (Matthew).
Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, grew up wealthy in Egypt, became a fugitive, herded livestock, then eventually led a nation. Paul, who wrote 13 books of the New Testament, was professionally trained in religion, theology and philosophy, and before he became a Christian led a movement to hunt down the followers of Jesus Christ. The Bible writers were rich and educated, poor and not-so-educated; they came from a wide variety of social backgrounds.
Yet the Bible contains a unified, consistent message. It could be summarized as "God's Savior, and how you may know Him" or "The kingdom of heaven, and how to get in."
The agreement woven throughout all 66 books written by different people at different times strongly points to the Bible's heavenly origin. Though humans did the writing, the Bible is the product of one author: God.
Churches and Christians didn't choose the books they wanted to put in the Bible. They eventually recognized the books that God had chosen. Bible expert J. I. Packer puts it this way:
The church no more "gave us" the canon than Sir Isaac Newton "gave us" the force of gravity. God gave us gravity by the work of His creation, and similarly, He gave us the New Testament canon by inspiring the original books that make it up.
Though the Bible is not just a history book, the events and people recorded in its pages are historical. Over the past couple of centuries, the science of archaeology has advanced our knowledge of the people, places and culture of Bible times. In the process, archaeology has proven, over and over, that the Bible is accurate in its historical facts.
For example, proof of King Jehu (see 2 Kings 9-10) was discovered on an obelisk (a column of stone) found in 1846. The obelisk contains words and pictures recording Israel's conquest by an Assyrian king. The obelisk's information perfectly confirms what was recorded in the Old Testament.
Fulfilled prophecy distinguishes the Bible from any other religious book. The Bible accurately predicted events hundreds of years in advance because God was the author.
Some time between A.D. 30-32., Jesus predicted that the Jewish temple would be reduced to rubble (Matthew 24:1-2, Luke 21:5-6), an unthinkable occurrence for the Jews of that day. Religious leaders would have ridiculed the idea that their massive temple could be razed. Yet in A.D. 70, the temple was indeed destroyed.
Additionally Isaiah 11:11-12, which was written more than 700 years before Christ, predicted that the Jews would one day return to Israel, after having been dispersed to points all around the world. At one time, skeptics pointed to this prediction (and a similar one in Ezekiel 37:21) as a prophecy that had never come to pass. Yet since the rebirth of the Jewish nation in 1948, Jewish individuals have indeed returned to Israel "from the four quarters of the earth."
Because the Bible is God's Word and what it says was true when it was written, it is still true today and will be true tomorrow and forever. In the most crucial issues of life — like God, human nature, right and wrong, sin, forgiveness, death and eternity — you can't afford to guess what is true. Your life depends on whether what you believe is, in fact, true.
The origin, accuracy and relevancy of the Bible are important to each of us. Fortunately, the evidence strongly indicates that the Bible is indeed God's Word, preserved for us to read, understand and follow. Nearly 500 years ago, the great reformer Martin Luther gave us his take on God's Word:
In the Bible God speaks. The Scriptures are His word. To hear or read the Scriptures is nothing else than to hear God himself.
You could spend your entire life, as some scholars have, researching the evidence in support of the Bible's accuracy. However, as Luther said, if you want to hear the voice of God, open your Bible. A good, easy-to-understand starting point is the gospel of John in the New Testament.
You may want to pray the words of Psalm 119:18 as you begin to seriously study the Bible: "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law."
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The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” —Matthew 28:5-7
Jesus Christ isn’t in the tomb. And get this: The guards are lying on the ground like dead men, and the stone has been rolled away.
Some of the guards get up and race to the chief priests with an amazing story. “There was a violent earthquake at the tomb, and this angel — WHOA! He was bright like lightning and actually rolled away the heavy stone!”
What do the priests do? They bribe the soldiers to lie!
“Tell everyone that you fell asleep and that those pesky disciples stole the body. Above all, don’t even mention the stuff about the earthquake and the angel!”
(Check out Matthew 28:1-15 for the full story.)
For centuries people have acted like those stubborn priests and have tried to disprove — even ignore — the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After all, if our Lord didn’t rise from the dead, then everything He said and did would be a lie, right? What’s more, anybody can claim to be God — psychiatric hospitals are filled with such misguided people. But to say you’re God and then prove you’re immortal — that’s another matter.
Christ’s resurrection was the proof, the seal of authenticity. And not only have people failed at disproving it, but during their research some have actually become Christians!
Yet the heart of man is often blind. Just look around and you’ll spot lots of skeptics. That’s why it’s important that Christian guys be prepared to talk about the greatest event in history. So read on, and let Breakaway show you how to lay some groundwork for guiding others to the truth.
Let’s take a look at the top three arguments people use — along with some solid answers.
“Maybe Jesus wasn’t really dead, and He just rolled away the stone himself.”
Right. A man who has been beaten, tortured and mutilated for hours is going to lie unattended for two cold nights in a tomb and suddenly find the strength to roll away a 2-ton rock, fight off all the Roman soldiers guarding it, then show up convincing everyone that He has a glorious resurrected body. That would be pretty hard to believe.
And while we’re talking about His body, let’s not forget the blood and water that flowed from His side when the soldier speared it on the Cross. If He were alive, the wound would have spurted red blood. But in a dead body, the blood separates into massive red clots and watery serum, just as John described it. (See John 19:34.)
“Maybe the disciples moved Christ’s body.”
Hmmm, let’s consider the facts: A group of men who have dedicated their lives to a teacher who insisted on truth and honesty are suddenly going to turn into liars and swindlers. And each of these self-seeking no-goods will be willing to face poverty, incredible hardship, torture and even death to perpetuate that lie. Not a chance.
Then there are the Roman soldiers. Considering that they were the best fighting machines in the world, it’s not likely that the disciples could overpower them and knock them all out. But even if they could, why didn’t they hurry and race off with the body before the soldiers came to, instead of painstakingly unwrapping all of the burial clothes and neatly folding the facecloth before making their getaway?
“OK, so maybe the soldiers stole the body.”
Hardly. Think about it: The very people who have been assigned to make sure that Jesus’ body isn’t moved decide to move it. What a neat practical joke to pull on their superiors. Of course, it would mean their execution for becoming traitors, but what’s a little death for a laugh or two?
While we’re looking at evidence, let’s not forget that His resurrection was something Jesus had predicted time and time again. Then, of course, there were all those Old Testament prophecies.
Once we’ve looked at all the facts and carefully examined the arguments, we would need more faith to believe that Jesus did not rise from the grave than to believe that He did.
In spite of the shortcomings of the hit movie, The Matrix, the first film in the trilogy raised important questions about human knowledge.
For example, how did Neo know when he was in the Matrix and when he was in the real world? If his experiences before taking the red pill were produced by the Matrix, how could he be sure his experiences after taking the red pill weren't also produced by the Matrix? In other words, how could Neo be certain he ever left the Matrix? How could he be certain that his experience of leaving the Matrix wasn't itself produced by the Matrix?
Much more importantly, if Neo could never be sure that he wasn't in the Matrix, how can you and I be sure that we're not in the Matrix? And if we can't be sure — if we can't offer an airtight argument for the conclusion that we're not — how can we claim to know anything?
Let's call this line of questioning "skepticism." In this article, I'll critique skepticism by showing that it makes indefensible assumptions about knowledge.
We can distinguish two different questions relevant to the human quest for knowledge.
Question (1) asks about the specific items of knowledge you possess; answering it gives you a picture of the extent and limits of your knowledge. Question (2) asks about the specific circumstances in which a belief would count as knowledge — it asks what all instances of knowledge have in common with each other.
Now suppose you want to appraise the intellectual respectability of your worldview and, in order to do so, decide to sort all of the beliefs that compose it into two groups: those that count as knowledge and those that do not. How should you proceed? Can you sort your beliefs with any accuracy if you don't know what the criteria for knowledge are? If not, then it seems that you should start by answering question (2). But the only way to answer question (2) is to look at instances of knowledge and see, first, what they all have in common and, second, how they differ from beliefs that don't count as knowledge. But you can only do this if you've already answered question (1).
So you can't answer question (1) if you don't first have an answer to question (2), and you can't answer question (2) if you don't first have an answer to question (1). And if you can't answer either (1) or (2), then how can you know anything at all? This predicament is what philosophers call the problem of the criterion. 1
There are three main responses to the problem of the criterion. First, there is "skepticism." The skeptic claims that no good solution to the problem exists and that we therefore can't know anything. Second, there is "methodism" (no connection to the denomination). According to the methodist, we can know things, and the solution to the problem starts with an answer to question (2). Moreover, methodists claim that a belief can only count as knowledge if you first know (a) what the criteria for knowledge are and (b) that the belief in question meets these criteria.
Unfortunately, methodism leads to serious problems. If knowledge of any belief requires prior knowledge of (a) and (b) — as methodism claims that it does — then the skeptic can ask the methodist how he knows (a) and (b). And since (a) and (b) are themselves beliefs, answering the skeptic will require the methodist to make further knowledge claims. But defending these knowledge claims will require him to make even further knowledge claims, and these will need defense as well, which will require yet more knowledge claims ... and so on and so forth to infinity. 2It would seem, then, that methodism is in trouble.
The third response to the problem of the criterion is called "particularism." According to particularists, you know many things without being able to prove that you do and without understanding how you know them. Thus you can answer question (1) without having to possess or apply any criteria for knowledge — i.e. without first answering question (2). Moreover, reflecting on your answers to question (1) will allow you to develop criteria for knowledge consistent with them. This criteria can then be used to make judgments in borderline cases of knowledge. 3But note that these criteria are justified by their congruence with specific instances of knowledge rather than the other way around, as in methodism.
Of course, the skeptic objects to particularism as well. First, he'll claim that particularism begs the question 4by simply assuming the very thing in need of proof — that some of our beliefs count as knowledge. Second, he'll try to force the particularist into methodism — and all of its problems — by asking him such questions as "How do you know you've picked out the right beliefs as instances of knowledge? Isn't it possible that you're wrong? And if it's possible that you're wrong, shouldn't you have to prove that you're not?"
Fortunately, particularism offers a good response to both of these objections. Regarding the charge that particularism begs the question, the skeptic claims the particularist must prove that some of our beliefs count as knowledge. But if the skeptic doesn't offer any reason for thinking this, his skepticism can be dismissed as arbitrary, rooted in personal preference rather than a substantive position or argument. If, on the other hand, his skepticism is the result of an argument, this argument must be reasonable to be taken seriously. But how can an argument be reasonable unless its premises count as knowledge? 5And if its premises do count as knowledge, then it can't reasonably conclude that none of our beliefs count as knowledge. Unbridled skepticism is not a rationally defensible position; it cannot be rationally asserted and defended without presupposing that some of our beliefs count as knowledge.
Regarding the skeptic's attempt to push the particularist into methodism, the particularist can resist by reaffirming that he can know things without being able to prove that he knows them. For example, the particularist could say "I know that mercy is a virtue even though I can't prove that I know it. Moreover, why think I have to prove I know it before I can know it?"
Further, the particularist argues that, just because it's possible that he's mistaken about the beliefs he counts as knowledge, that doesn't mean he is mistaken; nor does it mean he has good reason to think he's mistaken. For example, suppose I claim to know that I first visited Disneyland in 1985 and a skeptic points out that it's possible that I'm mistaken. He's right; it is possible. But it doesn't follow that I first visited Disneyland in some year other than 1985, or that I never visited Disneyland at all. Unless the skeptic gives me good reasons to think that I didn't first visit Disneyland in '85, the bare possibility that I might not have isn't sufficient to call into question my claim to know I did.
The particularist and skeptic have very different approaches to knowing. Of the two main tasks in the quest for knowledge (obtaining true beliefs and avoiding false ones), the skeptic elevates the latter over the former, whereas the particularist thinks obtaining true beliefs is at least as important as avoiding false ones. For the skeptic, the burden of proof is on anyone who claims to know something. For the particularist, the burden of proof is on the skeptic; he requires the skeptic to make a good argument for skepticism before he allows the skeptic to bother him about knowledge. And given the fact that the skeptic can only make a good argument for his skepticism by assuming the very opposite of his skepticism — that he actually knows things — the particularist sees no reason to deny what's obvious to all of us: that we know many things after all.
THE ISSUE: Can we know for sure that God really exists?
WHAT SKEPTICS SAY: It's foolish to believe in an invisible, impersonal God without empirical proof that He exists.
WHAT CHRISTIANS SAY: God's existence can't be proved. (At least scientifically.) Yet the weight of evidence not only makes it possible to believe in God's existence—it makes it very hard to ignore. The Holy Bible, as well as the accounts of reliable men and women through the ages, testify to the reality of God.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: "You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you" (Nehemiah 9:6).
EVIDENCE VS. PROOF
While Christians can't give skeptics empirical proof of God's existence, we also can't prove the existence of some of our heavenly Father's more famous human creations—people like C.S. Lewis, George Washington or King Tut. Photographs, dollar bills and ancient artwork provide evidence that these humans existed—but not proof. Evidence points to fact. Proof asserts a fact irrefutably.
On the other hand, we can put a droplet of blood under a microscope and, through observation, give irrefutable proof (what scientists call empirical proof) of the identity of this fluid. We can even match it to a specific human or animal.
But we can't give empirical proof that C.S. Lewis, George Washington or King Tut ever existed. However, the weight of historical evidence indicates that they did exist.
GOD IS WHO HE IS
The same is true of God. In fact, evidence exists in the records of all world civilizations. From prehistoric times, the idea of God has existed in the mind of humanity. Perhaps that's because, as author Bob Hostetler points out, "The idea of a Supreme Being who made the world makes sense. The concept of God is what scientists call a highly convenient hypothesis."
In other words, the concept of God fits—almost as if our minds have a feel for God. So much so, in fact, that when people reject God, they invariably substitute something else.
So, what should Christians say to a skeptic?
I doubt that all the arm-twisting or eloquent speeches can convince a nonbelieving friend that all of creation belongs to God. (In fact, arm-twisting and eloquent speeches aren't exactly God's style.) Transforming a hardened heart is actually the work of God himself. Besides, proving His existence isn't as important as telling the world what you know of His awesome nature:
For a complimentary copy of the Gospel of John, visit www.pocketpower.org.
THE ISSUE: Does current scientific data support the theory that the universe was created with intelligent design?
WHAT SKEPTICS SAY: Belief in an intelligent designer is a religious theory that has no basis in science. Scientific data supports evolutionary theory, and everyone knows it.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalm 19:1).
"A big, fundamental question, like belief in God (or disbelief), is not settled by a single argument," said physicist-turned-theologian John Polkinghorne in Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity. "It's too complicated for that. What one has to do is to consider lots of different issues and see whether or not the answers one gets add up to a total picture that makes sense."
That's the approach I took in my investigation. I probed six different scientific disciplines to see whether they point toward or away from the existence of an intelligent designer.
When I opened my mind to the possibility of an explanation beyond naturalism, the theory denying any supernatural existence in the universe, I found that the design hypothesis — that says there is a purposeful, intelligent, created order to the universe — most clearly accounted for the evidence of science. Consider some of the facts from my investigation:
The Evidence of Cosmology
Thanks to scientific discoveries of the last 50 years, the ancient kalam cosmological argument has taken on a powerful and persuasive new force. As described by William Lane Craig, the argument is simple yet elegant: First, whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Second, the universe had a beginning. Based on the data, virtually all cosmologists now agree the universe began in the Big Bang at some specific point in the past. Craig stressed that even alternate theories for the origin of the universe require a beginning.
The conclusion then follows from the two premises: Therefore, the universe has a cause. Even once-agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow conceded the essential elements of Christianity and modern cosmology are the same: "The chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy."
The Evidence of Physics
One of the most striking discoveries of modern science has been that the laws and constants of physics unexpectedly conspire in an extraordinary way to make the universe habitable for life. For instance, said physicist-philosopher Robin Collins, gravity is fine-tuned to one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion.
The cosmological constant, which represents the energy density of space, is as precise as throwing a dart from space and hitting a bull's-eye just a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter on Earth. One expert said there are more than 30 physical or cosmological parameters that require precise calibration in order to produce a universe that can sustain life.
The Evidence of Astronomy
Similar to the fine-tuning of physics, Earth's position in the universe and its intricately choreographed geological and chemical processes work together with exquisite efficiency to create a safe place for humans to live.
For example, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and science philosopher Jay Wesley Richards said it would take a star with the highly unusual properties of our sun — the right mass, the right light, the right age, the right distance, the right orbit, the right galaxy, the right location — to nurture living organisms on a circling planet. Numerous factors make our solar system and our location in the universe just right for a habitable environment.
What's more, the exceptional conditions that make life possible also happen to make our planet strangely well-suited for viewing and analyzing the universe and our environment. All of this suggests our planet may be rare, if not unique, and that the Creator wanted us to be able to explore the cosmos.
"If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision, we could never have come into existence," said Harvard-educated astrophysicist John A. O'Keefe of NASA. "It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in."
The Evidence of Biochemistry
Darwin said, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Biochemist Michael Behe has demonstrated exactly that through his description of "irreducibly complex" molecular machines.
These complicated, microscopic contraptions, such as cilia and bacterial flagella, are extremely unlikely to have been built piece-by-piece through Darwinian processes, because they had to be fully present in order to function. Other examples include the incredible system of transporting proteins within cells and the intricate process of blood clotting.
More than just a devastating challenge to Darwinism, these amazing biological systems which far exceed the capacity of human technology point toward a transcendent Creator. "My conclusion," said Behe, "can be summed up in a single word: design. I say that based on science. I believe that irreducibly complex systems are strong evidence of a purposeful, intentional design by an intelligent agent."
The Evidence of Biological Information
The six feet of DNA coiled inside every one of our body's one hundred trillion cells contain a four-letter chemical alphabet that spells out precise assembly instructions for all the proteins from which our bodies are made. Cambridge-educated Stephen Meyer demonstrated that no hypothesis has come close to explaining how information got into biological matter by naturalistic means.
On the contrary, he said that whenever we find a sequential arrangement that's complex and corresponds to an independent pattern or function such as books and computer code, this kind of information is always the product of intelligence.
"Information is the hallmark of a mind," Meyer said. "And purely from the evidence of genetics and biology, we can infer the existence of a mind that's far greater than our own — a conscious, purposeful, rational, intelligent designer who's amazingly creative."
The Evidence of Consciousness
Many scientists are concluding that the laws of chemistry and physics cannot explain our experience of consciousness. Professor J.P. Moreland defined consciousness as our introspection, sensations, thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs and free choices that make us alive and aware. The "soul" contains our consciousness and animates our body.
According to a researcher who showed that consciousness can continue after a person's brain has stopped functioning, current scientific findings "would support the view that 'mind,' 'consciousness,' or the 'soul' is a separate entity from the brain."
As Moreland said, "You can't get something from nothing." If the universe began with dead matter having no conscious, "how, then, do you get something totally different — consciousness, living, thinking, feeling, believing creatures — from materials that don't have that?" But if everything started with the mind of God, he said, "we don't have a problem with explaining the origin of our mind."
Recently, I was watching a debate on television between an atheist and a believer. The Christian had presented several arguments to support the idea that the physical universe of space, time and matter had not existed forever, but rather came into existence a finite period of time ago. He went on to argue that the best explanation for this fact is that there is a First Cause — God — who caused the universe to come into being.
At that point in the debate, the atheist responded, "If you say that everything needs a cause and so there must be a cause for the beginning of the universe, then what caused God? And if you say that God is the first cause and nothing caused Him, then why not just say that the universe itself is the first cause and nothing caused it? Postulating a God is both unhelpful and unnecessary."
Fortunately, the believer was prepared to give an answer to this response, but would you have been ready? What would you say if presented with this argument? Let's see if we can make some progress in formulating an answer.
The first thing to notice is that there is something wrong with the question, "Who or what caused God?" To understand the problem, I need to introduce a simple notion in logic called a category fallacy. A category fallacy is the mistake of ascribing the wrong feature to the wrong thing. For example, asking, "How many inches long is the smell of a rose?" or "What does the note C taste like?" seems to assume that smells have length and sounds have taste. Both assumptions commit a category fallacy.
You can commit a category fallacy about something even if that thing does not exist, as long as you have a concept of what the thing would be if it were to exist. For example, unicorns do not exist, but we have a concept of what a unicorn would be if it were to exist, namely, a one-horned horse. Given this concept, the question "How many iron filings does a unicorn attract?" commits a category fallacy (it falsely assumes that unicorns have magnetic properties which, given our concept of a unicorn, is a confusion of categories).
Now, the question, "What caused X?" can only be asked of things that by definition — by their very concept — are causable sorts of things. I can ask, "What caused the Earth to come into existence? What could cause unicorns to exist if there were such things? What caused the universe 1to come into existence?" because all these things — the Earth, a unicorn, the universe — are things that by their very nature have, in fact, come into existence. So it is not a mistake to ask a question about what caused something if the object itself is the sort of thing that could be, or in fact, was caused to exist.
But the very concept of God in the world's monotheistic religions is a concept of a necessary being, "the uncausable Creator of everything else." Given this concept of God, the question "Who or what caused God?" becomes this question: "Who or what caused something which, given a widely shared concept of God, whether He exists or not, is an uncausable thing?" Or more briefly, "Who caused God which by definition is uncausable?" It is a category fallacy to ask about the cause of something that by definition is not causable. You can only ask such a question of causable things. So the question, "Who caused God?" is like the question "What does the note C taste like?" It's a pointless mistake.
"Hold it just a minute," you may be thinking. "Though I can't quite put my finger on it, this response seems to be cheating. It's too nifty, too quick." If you are thinking this way, I believe you may be having one of two worries about my answer.
First, you may be thinking that my answer assumes that God exists, but that is precisely what we are debating. So I can't assume the existence of God to respond to the objection, "Who or what made God?" If you are thinking this way, you're wrong.
Remember, when atheists and theists debate the existence of God, most of the time they agree about the topic of debate. They both agree about the concept of God, about what God would be if there was such a thing. Otherwise, they would be talking past each other and wouldn't share a common concept of God, which is a requirement to have such a debate in the first place! They simply differ about whether there is anything real to which the concept applies.
Two people debating the existence of unicorns share a common concept of a unicorn even if they differ about the reality of unicorns themselves. The believer simply points out that, given this common concept of God we share in this debate "the uncausable Creator of everything else," one cannot ask what caused such a being without committing a category fallacy. And this point holds even if there is no God.
Second, you may be worried that the concept of God as "the uncausable Creator of everything else" is itself arbitrary. What if some people have a different concept of God? In the next section, I'll show that this concept of God is far from arbitrary, but for now, let's grant that it is and that there are other concepts of God people use. The only rival concept relevant to our topic would be a concept of a finite god; one that itself needs a cause.
Now, I admit that if someone holds to such a concept of god, then the question of who or what made a finite god is, indeed, a legitimate one. But that's their problem not mine. I don't hold to such a concept. When I talk to others about God; I am interested in arguing that the Christian God, not just any old god, exists. So while advocates of a finite deity need to answer the question about who created the god in which they believe, I don't because I don't share that concept of God. Given the Christian concept of God, the question of whom or what made this God is a category fallacy. I don't make this point to show that there is such a God. I make it to show that the question is not one I need to answer given the sort of God in whose existence I am interested.
To see that the Christian concept of God is not arbitrary, consider the following example. Suppose Fred owes Bill money. Fred, who has no money in his checking account, writes Bill a check to cover the debt. Fred gets a check from Harry to cover his check to Bill, but sadly, Harry has no money either, so he get a check from Robert (who also has no money) to cover his check to Fred.
Now this chain of check writers cannot go on forever like this. If it does, Bill will never receive the money he is owed. This is because Fred, Harry and Robert are borrowing lenders! They can't give what they don't have. If the chain doesn't eventually reach someone who has money in his account, there will be no money passed down the chain to poor old Bill.
Similarly, one thing — let's call it "A" — can't be the ultimate cause for the existence of something else — call it "B" — if "A" first has to come into existence before it can cause "B." Like the chain of lenders, one has to stop with a First Cause — something that does not need to borrow existence from something else to loan it to the next link in the chain.
At some point there has to be something that exists in itself — a necessary being, a being that is the uncausable cause of everything else. Thus, the concept of such a being is not arbitrary, but is required by reason.
"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins...If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" 1 Corinthians 15:17,19.
I set out as a young man to debunk Christianity. I met a young Christian woman who challenged me to intellectually examine the evidence for Christianity, and I accepted her challenge. I aimed to show her—and everyone—that Christianity was nonsense. I thought it would be easy. I thought a careful investigation of the facts would expose Christianity as a lie and its followers as dupes.
But then a funny thing happened. As I began investigating the claims of Christianity, I kept running up against the evidence. Time after time, I was surprised to discover the factual basis for the seemingly outlandish things Christians believe. And one of the most convincing categories of evidence I confronted was this: The resurrection accounts found in the Gospels are not the stuff of fable, forgery or fabrication.
I had assumed that someone, or several someones, had invented the stories of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. But as I examined those accounts, I had to face the fact that any sensible mythmaker would do things much differently from the way Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did in recording the news of the resurrection. As much as I hated to, I had to admit that if I had been some first-century propagandist trying to fake the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I would have done a number of things differently:
I would wait a prudent period after the events before "publishing" my account.
Few historians dispute the fact that the disciples of Jesus began preaching the news of His resurrection soon after the event itself; in fact, Peter's Pentecost sermon (Acts 2) occurred within 50 days of the Resurrection. And textual research indicates that the written accounts of the Resurrection, especially the creedal statement of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, are astoundingly early in origin, possibly within two years of the event. Such early origins argue against any notion that the Resurrection accounts are legendary.
I would publish my account far from the venue where it supposedly happened.
Dr. William Lane Craig writes, "One of the most amazing facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection was that it originated in the very city where Jesus was crucified. The Christian faith did not come to exist in some distant city, far from eyewitnesses who knew of Jesus' death and burial. No, it came into being in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified, under the very eyes of its enemies."
I would select my "witnesses" very carefully.
I would avoid, as much as possible, using any names at all in my account, and I would certainly avoid citing prominent personalities as witnesses. Yet at least 16 individuals are mentioned by name as witnesses in the various accounts, and the mention of Joseph of Arimathea as the man who buried Jesus would have been terribly dangerous if the gospel accounts had been faked or embellished. As a member of the Sanhedrin, a Jewish "Supreme Court," he would have been well-known. J. P. Moreland writes, "No one could have invented such a person who did not exist and say he was on the Sanhedrin if such were not the case."
His involvement in the burial of Jesus could have been easily confirmed or refuted. Perhaps most important, I would avoid citing disreputable witnesses, which makes significant the record of Jesus' first appearances-to women-since in that time and culture women were considered invalid witnesses in a court of law. If the accounts were fabrications, the women would never have been included in the story, at least not as first witnesses.
I would surround the event with impressive supernatural displays and omens.
As Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide writes, "We do not read in the first testimonies [of the Resurrection] of an apocalyptic spectacle, exorbitant sensations, or of the transforming impact of a cosmic event. . . . According to all New Testament reports, no human eye saw the resurrection itself, no human being was present, and none of the disciples asserted to have apprehended, let alone understood, its manner and nature. How easy it would have been for them or their immediate successors to supplement this scandalous hole in the concatenation of events by fanciful embellishments! But precisely because none of the evangelists dared to 'improve upon' or embellish this unseen resurrection, the total picture of the gospels also gains in trustworthiness."
I would painstakingly correlate my account with others I knew, embellishing the legend only where I could be confident of not being contradicted.
Many critics have pointed out the befuddling differences and apparent contradictions in the Resurrection accounts. But these are actually convincing evidences of their authenticity; they display an ingenuous lack of collusion, agreeing and (apparently) diverging much as eyewitness accounts of any event do.
I would portray myself and any co-conspirators sympathetically, even heroically.
Yet the Gospel writers present strikingly unflattering portraits of Jesus' followers (such as Peter and Thomas) and their often skeptical reactions (Mark 16:11, 13; Luke 24:11, 37; John 20:19, 25, 21:4). Such portrayals are very unlike the popular myths and legends of that (or any) time.
I would disguise the location of the tomb or spectacularly destroy it in my account.
If I were creating a resurrection legend, I would keep the tomb's location a secret to prevent any chance that someone might discover Jesus' body, or I would record in my account that the angels sealed it or carried it off into heaven after the Resurrection. Or I might have taken the easiest course of all and simply made my fictional resurrection a "spiritual" one, which would have made it impossible to refute even if a body were eventually discovered. But, of course, the Gospel accounts describe the owner of the tomb (Joseph of Arimathea) and its location ("At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb," John 19:41), and identify Jesus' resurrection as a bodily one (John 20:27).
I would try to squelch inquiry or investigation.
I might pronounce a curse on anyone attempting to substantiate my claims, or attach a stigma to anyone so shallow as to require evidence. Yet note the frequent appeal of Jesus' disciples, to the easily confirmed-or discredited-nature of the evidence, as though inviting investigation (Acts 2:32, 3:15, 13:31; 1 Corinthians 15:3-6). This was done within a few years of the events themselves; if the tomb were not empty or the Resurrection appearances were fiction, the early Christians' opponents could have conclusively debunked the new religion.
As Dr. Edwin Yamauchi says of the citation of the resurrected Christ appearing to more than 500 people in 1 Corinthians 15, "What gives special authority to the list [of witnesses] as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, 'If you do not believe me, you can ask them.' "
I would not preach a message of repentance in light of the Resurrection.
No one in his right mind would have chosen to create a fictional message that would invite opposition and persecution from both civil and religious authorities of those days. How much easier and wiser it would have been to preach a less controversial gospel—concentrating on Jesus' teachings about love, perhaps-thus saving myself and the adherents of my new religion a lot of trouble.
I would stop short of dying for my lie.
Lee Strobel has written, "People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they're true, but people won't die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false.
"While most people can only have faith that their beliefs are true, the disciples were in a position to know without a doubt whether or not Jesus had risen from the dead. They claimed that they saw him, talked with him, and ate with him. If they weren't absolutely certain, they wouldn't have allowed themselves to be tortured to death for proclaiming that the resurrection had happened."
These are not the only reasons I believe in the truth of the Bible and the reality of the Resurrection. But these were among the "many convincing proofs" (Acts 1:3) that I encountered in my attempts to prove Christianity wrong, which eventually led me to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be and that He really did rise from the dead. It didn't happen immediately, but eventually I gave in to the truth, and on Dec. 19, 1959, the Risen Christ radically changed my life. I've seen Him do the same for countless others, and I pray, if you haven't done so already, you will let Him do the same for you.
At one point in the classic book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, an exasperated professor utters the words, "Logic! Why don't they teach logic at these schools?" 1Lewis not only believed in truth, but also in our ability to use logic as an aid in determining truth.
Although it is true that logic studied as a formal discipline can lead to challenging formulas and diagrams, in a basic sense we all use it regularly. In reading this article, for example, you are using logic to interpret the words you see. Without logic, you could not make sense of this sentence. Interpreting a rational sentence requires a rational mind with the ability to comprehend words that are structured in a way that makes sense — in short, words that are organized logically.
Historically, Aristotle was the first to explore logic as a formal discipline, but he did not invent it. The underlying principles of logic are readily discernible. We use them every day to get through some of the simplest decisions and actions in life.
Logicians generally offer four broad principles or laws of logic.
First, the law of identity makes the obvious observation that something is itself and, therefore, cannot be something else (A is A).
Second, the law of non-contradiction deals with the concept of antithesis and states that something cannot be true and not true at the same time and in the same sense (A is not non-A).
Third, the law of excluded middle is often presented as "either A or non-A." For instance, God either exists or He does not exist.
Fourth, the law of bivalence assesses propositions as either being true or false. "God exists" is either a true or a false statement. 2
Furthermore, the Bible is not against logic. In fact, biblical Christianity encourages the use of the mind. In Isaiah 1:18 (NIV) we read, "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the LORD." In the New Testament Jesus is clear that we are to love God — not only with all our heart, soul, and strength, but also with our mind (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
Christians are also called to defend the truth by appealing to reason and evidence (Acts 26:25; 1 Peter 3:15). Acts 1:3, for example, says Jesus "gave many convincing proofs" as evidence for His resurrection. In Acts 26:25-26, after the Apostle Paul gives his testimony and outlines the gospel message, he is accused of being insane. Paul replies: "What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner."
In Acts 26, Paul uses logic to make his case for Christianity. He appeals to his own experiential testimony (noting how he used to persecute Christians), makes mention of the resurrection of Christ, and implies that many are aware of the events surrounding the gospel of Christ. Logically, Paul believes the Christian message because of the evidence, both experiential (his encounter with Christ) and evidential (the case for the resurrection, for instance, and the testimony of witnesses).
First Peter 3:15 also appeals to logic: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." The Greek word translated as "answer" is apologia and was used in reference to giving a legal defense. In this passage, Peter calls readers "to give the reason for the hope that you have." Reasons presuppose the validity of reason and logic.
The appeal in Acts 1:3 to "many convincing proofs" again relates to logic because a reasonable appeal is made to the evidence for the resurrection. In other words, Luke, the author of Acts, is not asking for blind faith, but faith founded on logical inferences. The New Testament records that many people saw Christ after his death, that Christ proved he was raised bodily by eating food and by inviting doubting Thomas to touch him (John 21:12-13; Luke 24:38-43). These are all logical appeals to evidence and reason.
As a former atheist, C.S. Lewis was well aware of the role that reason played in his conversion to Christianity. That's why he offered reasonable, logical arguments in support of his beliefs. In doing so, Lewis often utilized what is known as abductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning is similar to reasoning used by the scientific community in that it uses reasonable evidence to come to the best explanation.
In making his case for Christianity, Lewis used abductive reasoning to argue that the Christian explanation of reality — the Christian worldview — is more reasonable and probable than the alternatives.
In part two of this article, I describe two of Lewis' key arguments that use abductive reasoning: the argument from Christ and the argument from longing.
As I mentioned in part one of this article, C.S. Lewis used abductive reasoning to argue that the Christian explanation of reality — the Christian worldview — is more reasonable and probable than the alternatives. (Recall that abductive reasoning is similar to reasoning used by scientists in that it uses reasonable evidence to come to the best explanation.)
Now I'll take a closer look at two of Lewis' key arguments that use abductive reasoning:
Jesus once asked his disciples, "Who do people say I am?" After hearing a few replies, he put forth a more pointed and personal question: "'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?'" (Mark 8:27-29).
In exploring the alternatives regarding the claims of Christ, Lewis used abductive reasoning to conclude that the most probable explanation is that Jesus is who He said He was. In Mere Christianity, Lewis provides a brief presentation of his argument: "I'm trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse." 1
Beyond some biblical hints at such reasoning (John 8:48-49 and John 10:33), the core of this argument goes back to Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263-339), who outlined it in Demonstratio Evangelica ("Proof of the Gospel"). Lewis popularized the argument in Mere Christianity. Since then, several apologists have expanded it to include other alternatives beyond the traditional "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?" options. 2Based on the evidence and the truth of the Bible, these apologists, like Lewis, conclude that the most reasonable explanation is that Jesus is who He claimed to be.
Another line of reasoning Lewis used is called the argument from longing or desire. In it, he not only makes the case for God, but also the case for heaven.
Lewis believed that everyone experiences sensations of desire and longing. We may spend a lifetime trying to fulfill these desires by pursuing earthly pleasures such as taking vacations, moving from one sexual partner to another, or trying different hobbies — "always thinking that the latest is 'The Real Thing' at last — yet always ending up disappointed."
Our experience tells us, Lewis continues, that "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex." 3
How, then, can we explain deep inner longings that we have that nothing in this world seems to satisfy? Of course, it would make sense to begin by demonstrating that human beings do indeed have these longings. Some might argue that not everyone does have these desires or that they really do not point to God. Lewis disagreed, though, arguing that our longings for the 'other' — even though they may manifest themselves in different ways, such as material pursuits — are really longings for the transcendent joy that is found in God alone. 4
The fact that we have this longing, combined with the fact that nothing on earth can truly satisfy it, led Lewis to this reasonable conclusion: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." 5
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the professor concludes that a little girl named Lucy is telling the truth about her claims to have visited a world called Narnia. He does this by using abductive reasoning. The professor rationally explores the alternative explanations and concludes that they are unlikely. "For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up," argues the professor, "we must assume that she is telling the truth." 6
In making the case for Christianity, we, too, can use logic such as abductive reasoning. If we can provide arguments and evidence that Christianity is more reasonable and probable than other explanations of reality, then it is rational to conclude — "for the moment and unless any further evidence turns up" — that Christianity is, as the apostle Paul said, "true and reasonable" (Acts 26:25). 7