Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why I Am A Christian: 6 Brief Evidences

1) The Resurrection of Jesus

The resurrection of Jesus has earlier and more sources than the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of a very large margin. The assassination of Julius Caesar has two primary sources (Plutarch, Suetonius) written over 100 years after the event. 3 gospels record the death of Jesus and appearances to his disciples less than 70 years after the events. Furthermore, a creedal tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 is granted by atheist historians as having been formulated within 5 years of the resurrection, making it the earliest source in ancient history. This includes the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and many appearances to disciples and others. 

So evidence for Resurrection > Ides of March event....

Too easy you say? After all, the resurrection is a miracle. In response, one simply has to take only those non-miraculous facts which are well sourced. Then, try to come up with a better explanation than resurrection.

1) Jesus death by crucifixion
2) The burial of Jesus
3) The empty tomb* (75% of NT historians)
4) The proclamation that Jesus was "raised from the dead"
5) The transformation of the disciples after his death
6) the disciples having post-mortem experiences which they believed were appearances of Jesus 
7) The conversion of Paul, an unbeliever, because he claimed a glorious appearance of the risen Jesus

The majority of New Testament historians actually agree with these facts, even the skeptical ones (except the empty tomb, which is only 75%). It's very difficult to account for all of these facts without the resurrection. Most other theories sound very contrived and ad hoc.

2) DNA 

All information originates from minds. Indeed, it is hard to think of what information would be without it originating from a mind. So, when someone tells me something is information, and it's more complex than most information I encounter on a daily basis, then I accept it as having it's origin in a mind. Well, DNA is regularly called "information" by scientists. Indeed, its more complex than most information I know. So I infer it has its origin in a mind. 

John Lennox puts it nicely:

"We have only to see a few letters of the alphabet spelling our name in the sand to recognize at once the work of an intelligent agent. How much more likely, then is the existence of an intelligent Creator behind human DNA, the colossal biological database that contains no fewer than 3.5 billion "letters" - the longest "word" yet discovered?"

This is evidence that an incredibly powerful being that is strong enough to raise Jesus from the dead.  

3) Jesus the Exorcist Dilemma

Even among skeptical scholars and historians of New Testament, it is generally accepted that Jesus had a reputation as an exorcist, even among his enemies. But wait!?! What if you don't believe in demons? Well, which is easier to believe?

A) Jesus is widely known to cast out real demons
B) Jesus is recognized by friends and enemies as being able to heal very severe psychological disorders...simply by saying a sentence or two.

Take your pick.....

4) The Feeding of the 5,000

The feeding of the 5,000 is in all four gospel sources. Critical historians, liberal and conservative, believe the four gospels were written less than 70 years after the death of Jesus. This makes the feeding of the 5,000 more well supported than the Ides of March event where Caesar is assassinated (mentioned above). So if we accept the assassination of Caesar as historical then we accept the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 as historical....

Too easy you say? Well all one has to do is accept as historical the non-miraculous components of the message. Then, try to explain them without a miracle occurring. 

A) Five thousand people ate food on a certain day out in the countryside. 
B) The persons closest to Jesus at the time believed it was a miracle. 

Not an absolute proof by any means, but certainly more difficult to disprove than most people usually think. 

5) The "At Least One" Authorship Argument

So far, I have used arguments that do not depend on authorship of any of the source material used. However, here I will use a slightly different argument.

 Liberal scholarship rejects the traditional authorship of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. After all, the documents themselves don't have their names on them. Roman writer Tacitus doesn't have his name on one of his works either (none in the manuscripts we have). So historians have to rely on attribution, where someone else says that they wrote something. However, we don't have anyone saying Tacitus was the author of that writing until 80 years later. Same with many other ancient historical writings. Lots of people didn't put their name on stuff (or the manuscript was destroyed) and we have to rely on attribution by others, sometimes 100's of years later. 

However, the attribution to the 4 gospels is both very early by comparison and unanimous. So, if we are consistent, we ought to accept traditional authorship of the Gospels. But thats not the only problem. If the early church is right about even one of them, then we have a series of very well evidenced miracles.

Matthew: doesn't say his name, attributed as eyewitness by early church
Mark: doesn't say his name, early church says he gets his stuff from disciple Peter
Luke: doesn't say his name, claims to talk to eyewitnesses for his material
John: doesn't say his name, claims to be eyewitness
Luke (in 2nd book Acts): reports miracles done by apostles 

Remember, the liberal scholars want to say that all of these were written after the Neronian Persecution of Christians (60's A.D). Christians were crucified in this persecution, sometimes dipped in tar and set on fire, etc. So if it really is the traditional author, it's absurd that they would lie, because they would have nothing to gain by lying. So, any authentic authorship by an eyewitness (or someone who spoke to eyewitnesses) would abruptly falsify naturalism and most other belief systems, since they would be truthfully reporting several miracles of Jesus.

So I have to believe the early church was wrong about the authorship of every single one of these! Whereas, the attribution to some of the works of Tacitus shows up later, but historians don't even question it. 

6) Preference and Winning the Lottery

Ok, I could be wrong. But why would I want to be? A lot of people very sincerely want all this to be wrong. Why?? The God I worship assumed a human nature, died for my sins, and secures an eternal bodily life for all his followers through his resurrection. He isn't a bad dude either, telling people to love their enemies. He even gives me better historical evidence for miracles than for Caesar's assassination.  So a quite likeable God is promising me eternal bodily life simply by believing his gospel. It's like someone telling me there is a 95% chance I have won the lottery, but all I have to do to get the money is believe I've won... 

When I look at it this way, I can get over the 5% doubt rather easily.

Until Later, 

David W.

*The percentages and well attested facts come from Dr. Gary Habermas, and Michael Licona in their book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. He created a bibliography of over 2,000 sources on the historical Jesus in French, German, and English since 1975.

*Authorship info done by James Patrick Holding here:

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