Category : Apologetics

Tim Drake: Easter Evidence

“The compelling evidence for me is the unanimous testimony of all the apostles and even a former persecutor like St. Paul,” said Brant Pitre, assistant professor of theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. “There was no debate in the first century over whether Jesus was resurrected or not.”

Scholars say that the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection are compelling for a variety of reasons.

“People will seldom die even for what they know to be true. Twelve men don’t give up their lives for a lie,” said Ray, who recently returned from France, where he was filming his “Footprints of God” series at the amphitheater in Lyon, the site of a persecution in A.D. 177. “The martyrs of Lyon underwent two days of torture and all they would say is, ‘I am a Christian.’ They knew the resurrection was true and didn’t question it.”

Barber also highlighted the diversity of sources and how they include different details as well as passages that do not paint the disciples in the best light.

“In the Road to Emmaus story, they write that they didn’t recognize him,” said Barber. “Our Biblical accounts are our best evidence.”

Several of the scholars pointed to 1 Corinthians, where Paul states that Christ appeared to 500 people.

“Some want to shy away from the Gospels because they say they were written later,” explained Barber. “If you want to believe that they were written later, then why wouldn’t the Gospels have made use of this piece of evidence from 1 Corinthians?” asked Barber.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

Peter Kreeft–Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ

We believe Christ’s resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history. To prove this, we do not need to presuppose anything controversial (e.g. that miracles happen). But the skeptic must also not presuppose anything (e.g. that they do not). We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true. We do not need to presuppose that there really was an empty tomb or post-resurrection appearances, as recorded. We need to presuppose only two things, both of which are hard data, empirical data, which no one denies: The existence of the New Testament texts as we have them, and the existence (but not necessarily the truth) of the Christian religion as we find it today.

The question is this: Which theory about what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday can account for the data?

There are five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon.

1. Jesus died. Jesus rose. [ Christianity ]

2. Jesus died. Jesus didn’t rise—apostles deceived. [Hallucination]

3. Jesus died. Jesus didn’t rise—apostles myth-makers [ Myth ]

4. Jesus died. Jesus didn’t rise—apostles deceivers [ Conspiracy ]

5. Jesus didn’t die. [ Swoon ]

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

(First Things) Algis Valiunas–Nihilism For The Ironhearted

For Leopardi, unlike Shelley and Keats, nature provoked no ecstasies, so he might seem an Olympian mind of an antique cast, icy, sublime, and forbidding. Yet in a crucial sense he was a Romantic rather than a Classicist. Whereas Sophocles saw the world steadily and saw it whole, Leopardi beheld his own pitiable self wherever he looked. What he touted as the rarest magisterial vision of the world exactly as it is was in fact the special pleading of an unfortunate whom nature had selected for a very hard time. Rather than a disinterested neo-pagan sage, he was a soul in torment, who could not forgive the Creator for his deformity and loneliness, and therefore preferred to cut God out of the picture altogether, replacing him with immemorial philosophic abstractions such as cruel Nature and inexorable Fate.

This does not mean that Leopardi was not a great artist and an intellect to reckon with. His principal artistic persona, the spirit who negates and who takes pity on human beings for the agonies they must suffer, is the most straightforward of nihilists, alluring in his clarity of vision and unwavering fortitude. In the closing lines of Leopardi’s best-known poem, “La ginestra, o il fiore del deserto” (Broom, or the Flower of the Desert), he addresses the only plant to grow on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and praises its good sense as against human folly: “Far wiser and less fallible / than man is, you did not presume / that either fate or you had made / your fragile kind immortal.” Men choose to live within reach of the volcano’s devastating eruption because they are foolish, whereas the broom lives and dies there because it can’t do otherwise. “And unresisting, / you’ll bow your blameless head / under the deadly scythe” of the lava flow. To know your place in the world is to recognize that nature can snuff out your life in one terrifying instant, and when that time comes, men are as helpless as the broom. Acceptance—of sorrow, boredom, failure, and death—is the hardest part of wisdom.

It is of course Nietzsche who urges his readers to build their houses on the slopes of volcanoes, to live dangerously and say yes to life no matter how awful it gets. Leopardi’s is the more honest nihilism, the purest distillation of nothingness. Accepting one’s own particular portion of the universal lot is a far cry from love of life. Whereas Nietzsche preaches the supreme wisdom and moral excellence of amor fati, loving your fate so intensely that it seems entirely the working of your own will, Leopardi sees nothing to love even in the fate of the man who is clear-sighted and strong enough to gaze imperturbably upon life and death stripped to their hideous core. Leopardi’s is the more severe teaching, offering no hope of transcending Christian transcendence (in Erich Heller’s phrase) as do Nietzsche and his acolyte Rainer Maria Rilke in their glamorous prospectus of free-spirited modernity. One sees in Leopardi what godless life really is.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Eschatology, History, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Theology

(Peter Wehner) Why Jesus Never Stopped Asking Questions

Malcolm Muggeridge, the renowned 20th-century social critic and British journalist, was an unlikely convert to Christianity. For most of his life, he was an agnostic; faith for him was “infinitely unattainable.” But attain it he did, late in life, and in 1975 he wrote, “The coming of Jesus into the world is the most stupendous event in human history.”

Twenty centuries after his birth, Jesus still holds a revered place in the hearts of billions of people. I am among them. I imagine that it has influenced almost every area of my life, like food coloring dropped in water.

Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him.

Martin Copenhaver, a retired president of Andover Newton Theological School, claims in his book “Jesus Is the Question” that Jesus was more than 40 times as likely to ask a question as answer one directly, and he was 20 times as likely to offer an indirect answer as a direct one. “Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger,” T.S. Eliot wrote in “The Rock.” “Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.”

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Christology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Dorothy Sayers

Incarnate God, who didst grant the grace of eloquence unto thy servant Dorothy to defend thy truth unto a distressed church, and to proclaim the importance of Christian principles for the world; grant unto us thy same grace that, aided by her prayers and example, we too may have the passionate conviction to teach right doctrine and to teach doctrine rightly; We ask this in thy name, who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Laity, Poetry & Literature, Spirituality/Prayer

(Church Times) Ian Todd–Secularisation and the scientists

Going beyond the accumulating scientific evidence for a spiritual dimension, there are the continuing debates concerning the origin of the universe and its fine tuning for life, and the origin and diversity of life on earth. In all of these areas, the hypothesis of an intelligent designer is equally or more plausible than the purely materialistic explanations that many assume are the only permissible theories.

So, it is my opinion that one of the few ways in which the seemingly unstoppable tide of secularisation might be reversed is by gradually, but relentlessly, countering the materialist assumptions that predominate in society with rigorous, data-based evidence that we are the spiritual children of a loving God.

Such a strategy is clearly playing the long game, which is why I estimate that it will take several generations. This may seem frustratingly slow on a human scale; but God has all the time in the world.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(CT) William O’Flaherty–The Top 10 Misquoted Lines from C. S. Lewis

2. “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”

Lewis never wrote those words, but he did admire the person who originally wrote them—or at least something very similar. George MacDonald penned a close variation of this saying in Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood (1867). In the 28th chapter, we find a comment about “the great mistake of teaching children that they have souls.” It goes on to say that “they ought to be taught that they have bodies, and that their bodies die; while they themselves live on.” Years later, in 1892, an article appeared in The British Friend where MacDonald is quoted as saying, “Never tell a child … you have a soul. Teach him, you are a soul; you have a body.”

1. “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun. Not because I can see it, but by it, I can see everything else.”

The most misquoted line from Lewis. These are certainly great words, but they aren’t quite what Lewis actually wrote. They are close though. Not including punctuation, there are eight differences between this and Lewis’s original. The correct version comes from an essay entitled “Is Theology Poetry?” found in The Weight of Glory. The actual statement Lewis wrote is, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”

 Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History

Tom Wright on C.S. Lewis for CS Lewis’ Feast Day: Reflections on a Master Apologist After 60 Years

I once found myself working closely, in a cathedral fundraising campaign, with a local millionaire. He was a self-made man. When I met him he was in his 60s, at the top of his game as a businessman, and was chairing our Board of Trustees. To me, coming from the academic world, he was a nightmare to work with.

He never thought in (what seemed to me) straight lines; he would leap from one conversation to another; he would suddenly break into a discussion and ask what seemed a totally unrelated question. But after a while I learned to say to myself: Well, it must work, or he wouldn’t be where he is. And that was right. We raised the money. We probably wouldn’t have done it if I’d been running the Trust my own way.

I have something of the same feeling on re-reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I owe Lewis a great debt. In my late teens and early twenties I read everything of his I could get my hands on, and read some of his paperbacks and essays several times over. There are sentences, and some whole passages, I know pretty much by heart.

Millions around the world have been introduced to, and nurtured within, the Christian faith through his work where their own preachers and teachers were not giving them what they needed. That was certainly true of me.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History

CS Lewis on CS Lewis Day (I)–His description of his own Conversion

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

–C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Harcourt Brace, 1956), p.228

Posted in Apologetics, Church History, Church of England (CoE)

A Prayer for the Feast Day of C S Lewis

O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give thee thanks for Clive Staples Lewis whose sanctified imagination lighteth fires of faith in young and old alike; Surprise us also with thy joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Poetry & Literature, Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT) Tish Warren offers some Reflections on Faith and Science in the time of the Covid19 Pandemic

If the cultural conversation requires people to choose between their faith and science, most will choose faith, but we don’t have to ask people to choose. This is a false choice.

At the same time, Haarsma said, there are some Christians who present faith as opposed to evidence, instead of “faith as a lived-out commitment in response” to evidence. She also said that heated anti-science rhetoric from a minority of Christians online encourages scientists to dismiss people of faith as a whole.

So, I asked Haarsma, what is the path to reconciliation? If this dichotomy between faith and science is truly a false dichotomy, how do we purge it from our broader cultural discourse and imagination?

I heard her voice rise with passion. This is her life’s work and the work of her organization. She offered practical steps: The message to religious communities needs to be, “Don’t trust science instead of God; trust science as a gift from God.” Church leaders can praise God for creation and the unique ability to be able to study and understand it. Churches can also spotlight scientists, especially people of faith who are leaders in their fields. (BioLogos has a bureau of scientists and other scholars who speak to faith groups.)

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Christian Today) Alister McGrath on faith, science and why we should be excited by theology

CT: You begin your book with this declaration: “I never expected to be a Christian theologian, mainly because I never expected to be a Christian.” What was the main thing that drew you to Christianity at Oxford in the 1970s?

AM: I was an atheist when I arrived at Oxford, although I had some growing doubts about whether atheism was really as simple and rational as I had thought. My doubts increased as it became clear that my atheist friends at Oxford couldn’t prove that their beliefs were right. I gradually came to see that atheism was a matter of faith, not something that could be proved.

These friends believed that there was no God, but could not show that this was right. I had been attracted to atheism as a teenager because of its apparent certainty, and I now began to realize that it was actually a faith. As I met and talked to lots of students and academics who were Christians, I began to realize that I had misunderstood what Christianity was all about.

One of the reasons for my teenage atheism was that I believed that God was a total irrelevance. God was in heaven; but I was on earth, in the midst of time and space. God had no connection with or presence within my world, and could say or do nothing of any relevance to me.

But my Christian friends at Oxford told me about the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. I could see that, if this was right, it was a game-changer….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Church of England (CoE), Science & Technology

(Veritas revisit)–Quite the testimony from Sarah Irving-Stonebraker: How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus

One Sunday, shortly before my 28th birthday, I walked into a church for the first time as someone earnestly seeking God. Before long I found myself overwhelmed. At last I was fully known and seen and, I realised, unconditionally loved – perhaps I had a sense of relief from no longer running from God. A friend gave me C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and one night, after a couple months of attending church, I knelt in my closet in my apartment and asked Jesus to save me, and to become the Lord of my life.

From there, I started a rigorous diet of theology, reading the Bible and exploring theologians such as Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Ramsey, and F.D. Maurice. Christianity, it turned out, looked nothing like the caricature I once held. I found the story of Jacob wrestling with God especially compelling: God wants anything but the unthinking faith I had once assumed characterized Christianity. God wants us to wrestle with Him; to struggle through doubt and faith, sorrow and hope. Moreover, God wants broken people, not self-righteous ones. And salvation is not about us earning our way to some place in the clouds through good works. On the contrary; there is nothing we can do to reconcile ourselves to God. As a historian, this made profound sense to me. I was too aware of the cycles of poverty, violence and injustice in human history to think that some utopian design of our own, scientific or otherwise, might save us.

Christianity was also, to my surprise, radical – far more radical than the leftist ideologies with which I had previously been enamored. The love of God was unlike anything which I expected, or of which I could make sense.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Christology, Soteriology, Theology, Uncategorized

(CT) George Yancey–In the Push for Racial Justice, There’s a Middle Path Between Passivity and Aggression

….in our current society, we often deal with race by consistently trying to overpower our “enemies,” rather than by finding ways to communicate and persuade them of our perspective. Why can’t we work at finding common values and agreements? Why can’t we listen to each other until we accurately understand the interests and desires of others? Should not everyone be “quick to listen, slow to speak,” as James 1:19 reminds us?

Sometimes I think that we already know what we need to do to improve race relations but we simply don’t want to do it. But we are going to have to live in this society together. We are going to have to find answers to the racial issues of our day. We can choose to remain in a power struggle with each other, or we can begin to learn how to dialogue in a healthy fashion.

Many people on different sides of these racial issues have a vested interest in continuing our unproductive fighting. But if we learn to stop listening to those voices and start listening to each other, we can finally take important steps toward real racial unity and equality.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Apologetics, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Down’s syndrome: Abortion case heads to High Court

Campaigners are set to have a review of abortion law relating to Down’s syndrome heard at the High Court.

Heidi Carter, of Coventry, and Máire Lea-Wilson from Brentford, west London, are challenging the government over a clause in the current law which allows abortion for up to birth for a foetus with Down’s syndrome.

Mrs Carter, 25, who has the condition, said the current law is “not fair”.

The case is due to be heard on 6 and 7 July.

Currently, there is a 24-week time limit for abortion, unless “there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped” .

Mrs Carter, who campaigns under her given name of Crowter, previously wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying all non-fatal disabilities should be subject to the same standard 24-week limit.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

(WSJ) James Martin SJ–Celebrating Easter: Why a Watered-Down Resurrection Doesn’t Work

…particularly when we look at the disciples, the watered-down resurrection doesn’t seem credible at all. Remember that the Gospel of John (whose author had little to gain by making the disciples, future leaders of the early church, look bad) notes that the disciples were so frightened that they barricaded themselves behind locked doors after Jesus’s death. They had good reason to be. “If the authorities dealt that way with Jesus, who had so many people supporting him,” they must have thought, “what will they do to us?” Even before the crucifixion Peter shrank in fear from being identified as a follower of Jesus. Imagine how their fear would have intensified after witnessing the Romans’ brutal execution of their master.

With one exception, all of Jesus’s male followers were so terrified that they shrank from standing at the foot of the cross, unable to accompany Jesus during his final hours. Their reluctance may have stemmed from an inability to watch the agonizing death of their friend, but much was out of fear of being identified as a follower of an enemy of Rome. (The women, showed no such fear, though the situation may have posed less danger for them.)

The disciples were terrified. So does it seem credible that something as simple as sitting around and remembering Jesus would snap them out of their abject fear? Not to me. Something incontrovertible, something undeniable, something visible, something tangible, was necessary to transform them from fearful to fearless.

This is one of the most compelling “proofs” of the Resurrection.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

(VF) Ian Hutchinson–Can a scientist believe in the resurrection? Three hypotheses

I’m a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, and I believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. So do dozens of my colleagues. How can this be?….

Today’s widespread materialist view that events contrary to the laws of science just can’t happen is a metaphysical doctrine, not a scientific fact. What’s more, the doctrine that the laws of nature are “inviolable” is not necessary for science to function. Science offers natural explanations of natural events. It has no power or need to assert that only natural events happen.

So if science is not able to adjudicate whether Jesus’ resurrection happened or not, are we completely unable to assess the plausibility of the claim? No. Contrary to increasingly popular opinion, science is not our only means for accessing truth. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we must consider the historical evidence, and the historical evidence for the resurrection is as good as for almost any event of ancient history. The extraordinary character of the event, and its significance, provide a unique context, and ancient history is necessarily hard to establish. But a bare presumption that science has shown the resurrection to be impossible is an intellectual cop-out. Science shows no such thing.

Hypothesis 3: I was brainwashed as a child. If you’ve read this far and you are still wondering how an MIT professor could seriously believe in the resurrection, you might guess I was brainwashed to believe it as a child. But no, I did not grow up in a home where I was taught to believe in the resurrection. I came to faith in Jesus when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University and was baptized in the chapel of Kings College on my 20th birthday. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are as compelling to me now as then.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Peter Kreeft–Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ

We believe Christ’s resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history. To prove this, we do not need to presuppose anything controversial (e.g. that miracles happen). But the skeptic must also not presuppose anything (e.g. that they do not). We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true. We do not need to presuppose that there really was an empty tomb or post-resurrection appearances, as recorded. We need to presuppose only two things, both of which are hard data, empirical data, which no one denies: The existence of the New Testament texts as we have them, and the existence (but not necessarily the truth) of the Christian religion as we find it today.

The question is this: Which theory about what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday can account for the data?

There are five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon.

1. Jesus died. Jesus rose. [ Christianity ]

2. Jesus died. Jesus didn’t rise—apostles deceived. [Hallucination]

3. Jesus died. Jesus didn’t rise—apostles myth-makers [ Myth ]

4. Jesus died. Jesus didn’t rise—apostles deceivers [ Conspiracy ]

5. Jesus didn’t die. [ Swoon ]

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter

Tim Drake: Easter Evidence

“The compelling evidence for me is the unanimous testimony of all the apostles and even a former persecutor like St. Paul,” said Brant Pitre, assistant professor of theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. “There was no debate in the first century over whether Jesus was resurrected or not.”

Scholars say that the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection are compelling for a variety of reasons.

“People will seldom die even for what they know to be true. Twelve men don’t give up their lives for a lie,” said Ray, who recently returned from France, where he was filming his “Footprints of God” series at the amphitheater in Lyon, the site of a persecution in A.D. 177. “The martyrs of Lyon underwent two days of torture and all they would say is, ‘I am a Christian.’ They knew the resurrection was true and didn’t question it.”

Barber also highlighted the diversity of sources and how they include different details as well as passages that do not paint the disciples in the best light.

“In the Road to Emmaus story, they write that they didn’t recognize him,” said Barber. “Our Biblical accounts are our best evidence.”

Several of the scholars pointed to 1 Corinthians, where Paul states that Christ appeared to 500 people.

“Some want to shy away from the Gospels because they say they were written later,” explained Barber. “If you want to believe that they were written later, then why wouldn’t the Gospels have made use of this piece of evidence from 1 Corinthians?” asked Barber.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

CS Lewis on Christmas: The Grand Miracle

One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who asked it say, ‘freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian. Conversely, once you have accepted that, then you will see that all other well-established Christian miracles–because, of course, there are ill-established Christian miracles; there are Christian legends just as much as there are heathen legends, or modern journalistic legends–you will see that all the well-established Christian miracles are part of it, that they all either prepare for, or exhibit, or result from the Incarnation. Just as every natural event exhibits the total character of the natural universe at a particular point and space of time; so every miracle exhibits the character of the Incarnation. Now, if one asks whether that central grand miracle in Christianity is itself probable or improbable, of course, quite clearly you cannot be applying Hume’s kind of probability. You cannot mean a probability based on statistics according to which the more often a thing has happened, the more likely it is to happen again (the more often you get indigestion from eating a certain food, the more probable it is, if you eat it again, that you again have indigestion). Certainly the Incarnation cannot be probable in that sense. It is of its very nature to have happened only once. But then it is of the very nature of the history of this world to have happened only once; and if the Incarnation happened at all, it is the central chapter of that history. It is improbable in the same way in which the whole of nature is improbable, because it is only there once, and will happen only once.

–C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Posted in Apologetics, Christmas, Church History, Theology

(PD) Carl Trueman–The Impact of Psychological Man—and How to Respond

This means that we will be living in a day of small things for some time to come. The modern self is the result of a long and comprehensive revolution; it cannot be supplanted until an equally comprehensive revolution comes to take its place, and that will likely take many generations if it happens at all. In the meantime, Christians need to have modest goals, especially Christians involved in the public square. A world where orthodox Christianity is considered not just implausible but also immoral is a world that we will need to navigate in a manner perhaps not seen since the second century. Then, Christianity was a little-understood minority cult, suspected of entertaining values and patterns of behavior deemed subversive of the wider social good. Of course, we all know how that story developed. Sporadic local and later a few pan-imperial persecutions of the church gave way in the fourth century to the toleration and then the official adoption of Christianity as the religion of Rome. Historians and theologians debate to this day whether this final move was on balance good or bad for the church. That is not my interest here. My point is simply this: the church has been in a similar situation before and has not only survived but ultimately thrived.

And how, humanly speaking, did she do this? By all accounts it was by being faithful members of the church community and loyal subjects of the state, to the extent that loyalty to Christ and loyalty to Caesar were compatible. At times it was not possible to be both, and those were times of persecution. But it was not culture war so much as fidelity to the Christian community and, only when necessary, dissent from the decrees of Caesar that characterized her life and made her strong. She became attractive by being faithful to her message. It is my belief that only by modeling true community, oriented toward the transcendent, can the church show a rapidly destabilizing world of expressive individuals that there is something greater, more solid, and more lasting than the immediate satisfaction of personal desires.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Church Times) John Saxbee reviews ‘C. S. Lewis and the Christian Worldview’ by Michael L. Peterson

IN 1947, Time magazine called him “one of the most influential spokespersons for Christianity in the English speaking world”. More than 50 years later, in 2000, he was recognised by Christianity Today as the most influential Christian author of the 20th century — and he continues to feature as one of Amazon’s bestselling authors.

So Michael Peterson introduces the subject of this exemplary intellectual biography. C. S. Lewis is likely to feature on the bookshelves of most Church Times readers — Narnia, Screwtape, and Malcolm may well be familiar names. But his fantasy fiction and popular theology was inspired and informed by a philosophical journey that led from atheism to his embrace of orthodox Christianity. As he himself put it, “imagination is the organ of meaning,” but “reason is the natural organ of truth.”

Lewis, however, was not systematic in his articulation of the philosophy informing his progression towards Christianity’s world-view. So here Peterson seeks to provide just such a systematic treatment and does so with what might be described as typical Lewisian accessibility.

This is literary/philosophical “biography” because Lewis’s varied and voluminous publications can be understood only in the light of his personal story. Peterson deftly negotiates the balance between biography illuminating Lewis’s intellectual odyssey, and explaining it away.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in Apologetics, Books, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Theology

(VF) Ian Hutchinson–Can a scientist believe in the resurrection? Three hypotheses

I’m a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, and I believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. So do dozens of my colleagues. How can this be?….

Today’s widespread materialist view that events contrary to the laws of science just can’t happen is a metaphysical doctrine, not a scientific fact. What’s more, the doctrine that the laws of nature are “inviolable” is not necessary for science to function. Science offers natural explanations of natural events. It has no power or need to assert that only natural events happen.

So if science is not able to adjudicate whether Jesus’ resurrection happened or not, are we completely unable to assess the plausibility of the claim? No. Contrary to increasingly popular opinion, science is not our only means for accessing truth. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we must consider the historical evidence, and the historical evidence for the resurrection is as good as for almost any event of ancient history. The extraordinary character of the event, and its significance, provide a unique context, and ancient history is necessarily hard to establish. But a bare presumption that science has shown the resurrection to be impossible is an intellectual cop-out. Science shows no such thing.

Hypothesis 3: I was brainwashed as a child. If you’ve read this far and you are still wondering how an MIT professor could seriously believe in the resurrection, you might guess I was brainwashed to believe it as a child. But no, I did not grow up in a home where I was taught to believe in the resurrection. I came to faith in Jesus when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University and was baptized in the chapel of Kings College on my 20th birthday. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are as compelling to me now as then.

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Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

(WSJ) George Weigel–The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World

This remarkable and deliberate recording of the first Christians’ incomprehension of what they insisted was the irreducible bottom line of their faith teaches us two things. First, it tells us that the early Christians were confident enough about what they called the Resurrection that (to borrow from Prof. Wright) they were prepared to say something like, “I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s what happened.” And the second thing it tells us is that it took time for the first Christians to figure out what the events of Easter meant—not only for Jesus but for themselves. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly, as Prof. Wright and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI help us to understand in their biblical commentaries.

The way they thought about time and history changed. During Jesus’ public ministry, many of his followers shared in the Jewish messianic expectations of the time: God would soon work something grand for his people in Israel, liberating them from their oppressors and bringing about a new age in which (as Isaiah had prophesied) the nations would stream to the mountain of the Lord and history would end. The early Christians came to understand that the cataclysmic, world-redeeming act that God had promised had taken place at Easter. God’s Kingdom had come not at the end of time but within time—and that had changed the texture of both time and history. History continued, but those shaped by the Easter Effect became the people who knew how history was going to turn out. Because of that, they could live differently. The Easter Effect impelled them to bring a new standard of equality into the world and to embrace death as martyrs if necessary—because they knew, now, that death did not have the final word in the human story.

The way they thought about “resurrection” changed. Pious Jews taught by the reforming Pharisees of Jesus’ time believed in the resurrection of the dead. Easter taught the first Christians, who were all pious Jews, that this resurrection was not the resuscitation of a corpse, nor did it involve the decomposition of a corpse. Jesus’ tomb was empty, but the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples in a transformed body. Those who first experienced the Easter Effect would not have put it in these terms, but as their understanding of what had happened to Jesus and to themselves grew, they grasped that (as Benedict XVI put it in “Jesus of Nazareth–Holy Week”) there had been an “evolutionary leap” in the human condition. A new way of being had been encountered in the manifestly human but utterly different life of the one they met as the Risen Lord. That insight radically changed all those who embraced it.

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Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

James Martin-Whether you’re a believer or not, there is no way to ignore Easter’s radical claim

..the Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.

By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest followers, the triple denial by his best friend, the gruesome crucifixion and the brutal end to his earthly life. Then, of course, there is the stunning turnaround three days later.

Easter is not as easy to digest as Christmas. It is harder to tame. Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead.

Yet the Easter story, essential as it is for Christian belief, can be a confusing one, even for believers. To begin with, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection can seem confounding, even contradictory. They are mysterious in the extreme.

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Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

Tim Drake: Easter Evidence

“The compelling evidence for me is the unanimous testimony of all the apostles and even a former persecutor like St. Paul,” said Brant Pitre, assistant professor of theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. “There was no debate in the first century over whether Jesus was resurrected or not.”

Scholars say that the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection are compelling for a variety of reasons.

“People will seldom die even for what they know to be true. Twelve men don’t give up their lives for a lie,” said Ray, who recently returned from France, where he was filming his “Footprints of God” series at the amphitheater in Lyon, the site of a persecution in A.D. 177. “The martyrs of Lyon underwent two days of torture and all they would say is, ‘I am a Christian.’ They knew the resurrection was true and didn’t question it.”

Barber also highlighted the diversity of sources and how they include different details as well as passages that do not paint the disciples in the best light.

“In the Road to Emmaus story, they write that they didn’t recognize him,” said Barber. “Our Biblical accounts are our best evidence.”

Several of the scholars pointed to 1 Corinthians, where Paul states that Christ appeared to 500 people.

“Some want to shy away from the Gospels because they say they were written later,” explained Barber. “If you want to believe that they were written later, then why wouldn’t the Gospels have made use of this piece of evidence from 1 Corinthians?” asked Barber.

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Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CLJ) The Catholic Artist in a Neo-Pagan Age

Mariani stands apart from this. His poetry, as explained in my essay, restores the term “confessional” to its sacramental significance. It is not a secret diary blown open by the wind or a police blotter plunging downward in a column of newsprint, as it were, but a prayerful record of self-discovery made in the presence of God. Saint Augustine’s Confessions is the most obvious antecedent alongside those distinctly modern features of his poetry that come from Lowell among others. I return to Mariani’s work, once again, because his own discussion of the vocation of the Catholic poet seems such a fruitful point of departure in answering the question, what must the Catholic artist do, in our day or in any day?

For his answer, Mariani draws our attention finally and above all to the example of Saint Paul, and to surprising effect. In the very center of the Acts of the Apostles, we watch as Paul comes to Athens; he finds a great “market place” of ideas, where “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” meet him amid the Jews and gentiles of a city that, as Paul himself proclaims, must be “very religious” (17:18; 22). Very religious indeed, as the city is chock full of idols; their various devotions are multiplied by their decadent curiosity, which Luke describes by recording that “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). This is not the Athens of Plato, where the question of philosophy was a question of life and death, but the Athens of the Roman Empire, where Roman curiosity has become a kind of indulgent decadence, a place where interest in ideas was only increased by a doubt that any of them finally were to be credited and adopted. They had an interest in wisdom but little hope that anyone actually could be wise.

These pagans had, however, arrived at an intellectual maturity, where philosophical reflection had deepened traditional religion until the bold natural theology of Aristotle, with its prime mover and final cause, and Plato’s absolutely transcendent Good, understood as one god, supreme, father of all, had become something like the common sense of all educated persons.[2] They represent therefore an unfortunate but familiar coupling: genuine intellectual sophistication, rigorous refinement, and decadent unseriousness.

Saint Paul, as he comes to address these pagans in the Areopagus, appeals to both dimensions of their character. To their sound metaphysics and natural theology, he proclaims that the “unknown god” at last has been given a name and may be known to each person most intimately: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth . . . is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’”(17:24; 27-28). More subtly, he corrects their clever unseriousness, by wryly observing, “I perceive that in every way you are very religious,” and by provoking them to recall that, beneath decadent curiosity, lies a genuine eros to know the truth and to be saved, to “seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him” (17:22; 27).

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Posted in Apologetics, Art, Poetry & Literature, Roman Catholic, Theology

(TGC) Justin Bass–What’s the Earliest Evidence for Christianity? (The Answer May Surprise You)

Among the oldest evidence for Christianity are manuscripts like Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus from the early fourth century AD. Constantin von Tischendorf—the Indiana Jones of New Testament manuscripts—discovered Sinaiticus at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt in 1859. He later wrote that he’d saved Sinaiticus from being burned by monks who’d already cast two heaps of similar manuscripts to the flames! Tischendorf went on to call Sinaiticus “the most precious biblical treasure in existence.”

Then there are the papyri manuscripts, many of which date earlier than Sinaiticus. Among the earliest is P52, a three-inch piece of papyri with five verses from the Gospel of John (18:31–33, 37–38). This little treasure is currently dated from AD 125–175 (though others argue for a broader range).

But followers of Jesus need to be aware of another revolutionary discovery that is greater than Sinaiticus, greater than P52, greater, in my estimation, than all the archaeological discoveries combined: the discovery of the pre-Pauline creedal tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3–7. This has been rightfully called the “pearl of great price.”

This apostolic creedal statement is unparalleled in the New Testament. In fact, it’s unparalleled in all of ancient literature. Even if nothing else had survived from the early Christian movement besides this five-verse creedal tradition, we’d still have the essence of the gospel and the historical bedrock on which Christianity stands: “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32).

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Posted in Apologetics, History, Theology: Scripture

Al Mohler–Why Mormonism should not be considered Christian

The most important question is this: should we consider the Mormon Church, the church known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as a Christian denomination? No, we should not. It simply fails every major test of Christian orthodoxy. It is itself at its very foundation a repudiation of historic Christian orthodoxy. It claims an authority of a living prophet, living apostles and the book of Mormon as a successor. They call it another Testament of Jesus Christ to the Bible itself. They deny the most basic Christian doctrine of all, which is the doctrine of the Trinity, and they also reformulate the doctrines concerning Christ not only in terms of the person of Christ but also of his work. They preach what the apostle Paul identified in the book of Galatians as another gospel. And this must be recognized.

At the same time this is also a very timely reminder to Christians that in the name of Christ and in the service of the gospel it is never wrong to live amongst our neighbors with mutual respect. But that respect does not mean it’s a respect at the expense of the truth. We should expect our Mormon neighbors to believe in Mormonism, and we should also protect their religious liberty to do so where religious liberty that is threatened for both Mormons and evangelicals. But at the same time our respect for religious liberty and our respect for our neighbors does not prevent us in any way from either the responsibility or the urgency of evangelism. And we should note that goes both ways. Mormons are seeking to evangelize biblical Christians even as biblical Christians are seeking to evangelize Mormons. That’s honest and it need not be disrespectful. Furthermore there should be the recognition of the fact that we in terms of the biblical doctrine of common grace are glad to find the affirmation of certain very essential moral principles and affirmations of the structures of creation wherever they are found. We should be very happy to find a rightly ordered family wherever that rightly ordered family is found. That’s simply a testimony to the goodness of God in the very structures of the creation that he made for human flourishing.

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Posted in Apologetics, Mormons, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

(Premier) When John Lennox met Dave Rubin

Justin Brierley has moderated hundreds of lively debates on Christianity and atheism, but when a renowned Christian apologist met a popular YouTube personality at a Californian megachurch, it turned out to be one of the most remarkable events the broadcaster has ever hosted

In the 14 years since I began my faith discussion show Unbelievable?, I’ve never witnessed a conversation quite like the one that took place in front of a 1,000-strong audience at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California.

I had invited John Lennox and Dave Rubin to join me for a live recording of The Big Conversation video series, in which Christians and atheists debate big questions about science, faith and philosophy.

Lennox is a longstanding Christian thinker whose background as an Oxford professor of mathematics has seen him debate high-profile atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Rubin is a rising star in the online world, regularly sitting down with various public intellectuals to debate culture, politics and – with increasing frequency – religion. His YouTube channel The Rubin Report has more than 1 million subscribers.

Lennox has often spoken and written about his own Christian convictions and why he holds them. What made this conversation unique was that Rubin’s views on religion are in a state of flux.

At one time he looked like a typical US Millennial. He had grown up in a culturally Jewish household but, as a gay, secular liberal, he adopted the atheist outlook of many of his peers. A turnaround in his political views occurred in his mid-30s, however, as he began to question the so-called progressive left-wing ideology and its effects on free speech. Rubin is now counted as a leading conservative voice in America’s culture wars. But could his political conversion be followed by a religious one?

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Posted in Apologetics, Religion & Culture, Theology