Friday, September 23, 2005

Humans Are No Different Than Apes?

This seems to be the case according to the London zoo. I read an article a few weeks ago that said the London zoo was now putting human beings on display. (You can read the article and see pictures for yourself by CLICKING HERE).

As I read through this article several thoughts popped into my mind. The first was, “Are you serious?”

According to the zoo, the purpose of this display is to show that humans are no different than animals. Rather we are simply primates like an ordinary monkey. Polly Wills, the spokeswoman for the zoo, said “Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals…teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate [emphasis mine].”

Just another primate? How many other primates use the telephone on a daily basis? How many other primates invented mass entertainment like television and movies? How many other primates invented methods of transportation allowing them to visit their primate relatives anywhere else in the world in less than 24 hours? How many other primates have put their species on the moon AND the depths of the ocean? Seems to me that at the very least our accomplishments and lifestyle should put us into a whole other category which brings me to my next point.

Aren’t classifications like “primate” and “species” a human invention? Sure there are types of animals that may look similar to the eye, but there is no law that nature imposed on itself in regards to classifications. Prior to scientists developing this classification system there was nothing like it in nature. So to say that humans are just another primate seems kind of pointless. Classifications change and many scientists disagree on certain animals belonging with other animals in the same category.

Perhaps most of all I was surprised by the inconsistencies in the zoo administration’s actions and beliefs. For example, these humans on display are wearing bathing suits with fig leaves on them. My question is why? If we are just another primate shouldn’t we be in the nude as that is our natural state? To put humans in bathing suits is like putting a blanket around the elephant, it isn’t found in nature. I would presume that zoo officials would argue they are wearing clothes so as not to offend anyone. Offend another member of the same species by appearing in our natural state? Hmmm, that’s interesting as I can’t think of a single other animal that does that. Could it be because we have morals and values which are ALSO something that no other species has? How can we be “just another primate” if we are the only ones with morals and values?

My second question is why are the humans allowed to go home at night? Why don’t we just walk down the street, kidnap a few humans and through them in and lock away the key? No other animals get to go home at night. It’s because we have certain values and rights (like respecting life and freedom) which we grant to each other. No other animal does this. So how can we be observing humans as “just another primate” if we have created all of these unnatural stipulations?

For my final thought I find it fascinating that humans in the zoo are covered by fig leaves. Why fig leaves? The only answer that makes sense to me is that it’s taken from the story in Genesis chapter 3. (In Genesis 2:25 we find Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, were naked and felt no shame. After being tempted to, and subsequently, rebelling against God, Adam and Eve “…realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” [Genesis 3:7])

But this is peculiar because the zoo officials seem to not have much difficulty taking that part of the story out but they sure don’t buy into the part about God creating man. Seems to me that isn’t very intellectually honest; but that’s a post for another time.

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with the words from Almighty God himself on how He feels about humans, and let you decide on your own if, as the London zoo advocates, we’re “just another primate.”

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-- everything that has the breath of life in it-- I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

-- Genesis 1:26-30

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Quick Thought

With the postmodern generation/mindset among us, it feels like there has been an influx of criticism towards different evangelistic methodologies (i.e. Evangelism Explosion, 4 Spiritual Laws, Bridge Diagram, Evangelistic Crusades, etc.). It seems that almost everyone I talk to has a very strong opinion about which methods don't work and why they should be abandoned. I find this most ironic as the very generation/mindset that wants to paint everyone as an individual and not generic, in the same breath feels that different evangelistic methods, although not their particular "cup of tea" must not be able to work for anyone else.

I came across this story in an article I read recently and thought that it captured my feelings perfectly (especially when I realize that the conversation must have happened over 100 years ago):

The story goes that on one occasion D.L. Moody [1839-1899] was criticized for his mass evangelism methods, and he replied to his critic, "I don't like them either. What methods do you use?" When the critic indicated that he didn't use any evangelistic tools or activities, Moody said, "Well, I like the way I do it better than the way you don't." We should keep that in mind, especially when we encounter evangelism practices that make us cringe

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Conclusion to the Series on Intelligent Design

Recent support for the Intelligent Design movement has caused a major wave in scientific communities. Historically Darwinists could write off those that support Intelligent Design as ignorant religious fundamentalists. However a new understanding of the differences between Intelligent Design and Creationism has driven a wedge into their argument. Although Intelligent Design does claim to find substantial evidence in the world for a designer, Intelligent Design does not claim to have knowledge about that designer nor does it seek it.

Intelligent Design has forced many in the scientific community to realize that there is a difference between philosophical assertions and scientific ones. For example, a true Darwinist cannot look at something in the world and say it is “bad.” For that would either be contrary to the “natural selection” viewpoint or it would pre-suppose a designer who made a mistake. Either way it would be a philosophical observation and not a scientific one. It is important for academic integrity for philosophy to remain philosophy and science to remain science.

Intelligent Design has also shown many that its foundational concepts are used in everyday life and accepted without challenge. Crime Scene Investigators, Archeologists, Military Cryptographers and many more use Intelligent Design to help them with their tasks all the time. Yet when these same proven and trusted precepts are moved over to the biological realm, a huge uproar occurs. Intelligent Design has shown that many people are ignorantly living in an inconsistent worldview.

Intelligent Design has brought to the surface several hypocrisies in the scientific community. Scientists are trying to have the best of both worlds when they exclude Intelligent Design when trying to explain origin of life but embrace it when they need to figure out whether something is a worthless rock or priceless artifact. Intelligent Design has also forced the scientific community to reveal its ugly side. As more and more overwhelming evidence for Intelligent Design becomes apparent, more and more of the arguments against it turn to smear campaigns against the person’s character rather than against the theory itself.

In the past few years the Intelligent Design movement has gained massive momentum. More and more top scientists are beginning to study the concepts Intelligent Design utilizes and are beginning to realize the truth behind it. History has shown that there is a pendulum of public opinion that sways back and forth. Since 1859 the pendulum has been swinging towards the theory that evolution contains the answers to the origin of life. However, with the recent developments in Intelligent Design, I believe that pendulum has clearly reached its apex and is rapidly swinging the other direction.

Thank you for taking the time to bear with me through this series. I realized Intelligent Design is not an easy topic to understand and you may be even more confused than when you started. But I hope you have learned a few things and realize that when held to the same standard of other sciences, biology must at least look at Intelligent Design theory as a possibility until evolution moves from a theory to a scientific law.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Is Intelligent Design Used Today?

In our last post I briefly mentioned the concept of consistency. Today I want to look at examples of Intelligent Design being not only used, but widely accepted in a wide variety of disciplines in today’s world. As we take this quick journey I hope you can quickly see that opponents of Intelligent Design are …….

The concepts behind Intelligent Design are used today in many different disciplines of science. In fact, many different fields of science would not be able to function or even exist without some form of acceptance of Intelligent Design.

For example, a Crime Scene Investigator uses Intelligent Design when he approaches a crime scene and has to determine whether a person died as an accident or the result of foul play.

If an Archeologist finds a weird shaped rock he must determine if it is the result of abnormal weathering or if it was chipped that way by a pre-historic hunter.

A Military Cryptographer must decide if a piece of paper handed to him with jumbled letters is just a random sequence or the enemy’s secret code. All three of these disciplines use precepts, such as specified complexity, found in Intelligent Design.

Naturalists claim that we must have solid natural explanations to work with. Eugenie Scott in her essay entitled The Nature of Change (Click Here to read the article), wrote “…but even if we didn’t [have solid explanations to work with], science only has tools for explaining things in terms of natural causation.”

Again we are faced with an incompatible situation. Scott is claiming that science can only explain things in terms of natural causation. This is true if, and only if, the person establishing scientific guidelines decides to incorporate it. In and of itself there is no reason natural causation has to be a criterion. In fact, it seems quite suspicious that it would be there in the first place. The only logical reason would be to ensure that it could exclude any theory that relies on something that mere human reasoning cannot explain. Again we are faced with the scientific community not actually being interested in the truth, but what fits with their agenda.

Another point to consider is that if Intelligent Design is well received in certain scientific fields but not others, serious problems begin to arise. As seekers of truth and academic integrity we must begin to ask questions about this. For example, how can we trust the Archeologist or Crime Scene Investigator if the objective methods used are only true for his field and not others? Wouldn’t truth be truth regardless as otherwise it would be relative?

Phillip Johnson raises a great question when he asks “If design is a legitimate subject for scientific investigation in the case of computers, communications from space aliens, and peculiar markings on cave walls, why should it be arbitrarily excluded from consideration when dealing with the biological cell or the conscious mind?” We must hold those in the scientific community accountable for hypocritical practices.

I hope you can see that those opposed to Intelligent Design theory really aren’t opposed to the theory in any field whatsoever, except biology. When one becomes opposed to a theory based on personal preferences instead of pursuit of truth regardless of where it leads, we no longer have science, we have chaos.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Arguments against Intelligent Design

Okay, so now we (hopefully) have a basic understanding of what Intelligent Design is. However not everyone believes in this theory. I want to take a moment and look at some of the more common objections that are out there.

One of the biggest problems opponents of Intelligent Design face is that of not mixing scientific assertions with philosophical or religious ones. True science requires a neutral mind open to all possibilities in the pursuit of truth. Yet most naturalists assert that Intelligent Design has no place in science academia and should be kept to religious circles.

Phillip Johnson wrote in Signs of Intelligence:

“Scientific materialists think that advocates of Intelligent Design are either irrational or dishonest because they are advocating as science a proposition that ought to be confined to religion, namely the claim that scientific evidence points to the reality of a designing intelligence in the origin and development of life.”

But how can science honestly say it is pursuing truth if it already has preconceived stipulations set in place?

For example, Robert T. Pennock states in his essay Mystery Science Theater that:

“The origin of species once seemed equally mysterious, but Darwin followed the clues given in nature to solve that mystery. One may, of course, retain religious faith in a designer who transcends natural processes, but there is no way to dust for his fingerprints.”

Here we can already clearly see that Pennock has closed his mind to a creator God simply because he can’t see evidence of it that is up to his standard. In other words, “dusting for fingerprints” would have to fit his own subjective criteria of evidence as opposed to another person’s criterion where the intricacies of ecosystems or complexities of plate tectonics could suffice.

Dembski has a great retort to this problem. In The Design Revolution he says:

“So long as intelligent design has a demonstrable secular purpose – advancing science, enriching the science curriculum, preventing viewpoint discrimination, promoting academic freedom – its motivation even if religious is legally irrelevant.”

Another problem facing opponents of Intelligent Design is that they are acting inconsistently with their worldview. They claim that they will not accept Intelligent Design as a legitimate theory because it has religious suppositions behind it. Yet those in science and academia conceptually accept and even use Intelligent Design in their everyday lives. Although the next post will specifically focus on these areas, I want to bring up one example here.

This is an example Phillip Johnson gives in his chapter of Signs of Intelligence; “If they [science academia that currently reject Intelligent Design] were to receive a signal containing a sequence of prime numbers as portrayed in the movie Contact, they would conclude it came from intelligent beings – without the need for independent evidence of the existence and nature of aliens.”

Here you can see an example of where the scientific community would be stuck between a rock and a hard place. The evidence would clearly show signs of intelligent life, yet the method used to assert this is the very method they deny as religiously based.

Robert Pennock addresses this issue in his essay Mystery Science Theater. (Click Here to read the article). Here he brings up the very issue of the movie Contact and claims:

"…a design inference like that in the movie Contact, for instance, would rely on background knowledge about the nature of radio signals and other natural processes, together with the assumption that a sequence of prime numbers is the kind of pattern another scientist might choose to send as a signal. But the odd sequences found within DNA are quite unlike a series of prime numbers."

But Pennock is mistaken. He is so focused on the specifics involved with the radio signals, that he completely misses the concept being represented; namely that it is possible to make an inference of something you don’t know about from something that you do know about.

Okay, my guess is by now your head is spinning, I know mine is, let’s call it a day and come back later for an analysis of Intelligent Design in use today.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Intelligent Design is not Creationism

One of the ACLU’s biggest arguments is that Intelligent Design is just hidden Creationism. However, Intelligent Design and Creationism are not the same thing!

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Creationism is “the doctrine that ascribes the origin of matter, species, etc. to acts of creation by God.” This differs from Intelligent Design in that Intelligent Design only looks for a designing intelligence, and not for information about the designing intelligence. In fact we could be living in a world designed by Martians and as long as it was designed by the Martians this would be totally consistent with the theory of Intelligent Design.

Perhaps William Dembski said it best when he wrote “Creation is always about the source of being of the world. Intelligent Design is about arrangements of preexisting materials that point to a designing intelligence. Creation and Intelligent Design are therefore quite different. One can have creation without Intelligent Design and intelligent design without creation.” (The Design Revolution, 38)

Some people will argue that Intelligent Design is just disguised theology but if they really understand the theory they will realize that it is not. Although it is similar to Creationism in that it has theological implications, it differs in that it does not require specifically theological, biblical presuppositions (i.e. earth created in a day). In fact, even if the Intelligent Design of some structure has been established, it is still a separate question whether a wise, powerful and beneficent God ought to have designed a complex information structure one way or another. (Signs of Intelligence, 10)

Intelligent Design is not concerned with why the designer decided to do something one way and not the other, it is not concerned with what the designer was thinking at the time, and it is not concerned with who the designer is/was. Intelligent Design is only concerned with the fact that there is a designer.

This difference between Intelligent Design and Creationism seems to be a difficult concept to grasp for many Darwinists. For reasons unknown, many seem to attack the individual supporting Intelligent Design instead of attacking the theory of Intelligent Design itself. If you are like me, you may have experienced this yourself.

It seems that because many who support Intelligent Design also happen to be Christians (even though Christianity and Intelligent Design do not have to correlate) makes for an easy target on religious grounds.

For example, Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southern Louisiana University, wrote a paper titled The Newest Evolution of Creationism. In this paper she states her views on the Intelligent Design movement. The following are some quotes from that paper: (It should be noted that Wells and Johnson are well known supporters of the Intelligent Design movement).

[Jonathan] Wells, influenced in part by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, earned Ph.D.'s in religious studies and biology specifically "to devote my life to destroying Darwinism.”

[Phillip] Johnson, a law professor, whose religious conversion catalyzed his antievolution efforts…

At heart, ID proponents are not motivated to improve science but to transform it into a theistic enterprise.

Note that none of these statements have anything to do with the suppositions set forth by Intelligent Design, but have everything to do with the person that supports it. The quotes listed above are not selected at random but rather give a complete picture as to the nature of the essay. (Click Here to read the article) It is sad to see that those who are considered professionals in their field struggling so badly to find faults with the theory that they are reduced to avoiding it altogether and simply attacking the person.

I hope you’ve been able to see that Intelligent Design theory, although compatible with Creationism, is NOT a requirement for, nor is it a component of creationism.

Friday, July 01, 2005

What is Intelligent Design?

Seems like we should probably start out by defining exactly what Intelligent Design is. According to William Dembski (perhaps the world’s leading scholar in the field of Intelligent Design), Intelligent Design is the name given to a theory of science that states “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” (William Dembski’s The Design Revolution, page 27).

Now Intelligent Design uses several factors including specified complexity (independent improbable patterns [more on this later]) and irreducible complexity (organisms that cannot be broken down into smaller functioning organisms like some kinds of bacteria) as proof of its existence.

But it is important to define what we mean by the word “intelligent.” According to the book Signs of Intelligence (by Dembski and Kushiner), the intelligent design community understands “intelligent” to refer to “an intelligent agency, irrespective of skill or mastery.”

Confused yet? I hope not, but I had to get that out of the way to set up our foundation.

Intelligent Design is the antithesis of Darwinism. Darwinism, also known as Naturalism, states that the natural world is all there is. It believes the world is exclusively explained in natural terms. Darwinism states that factors such as natural selection and random variation account for life on the planet. When a naturalist (it should be noted that naturalist and Darwinist are interchangeable for this series of posts) talks about science, he will speak from the perspective that the natural world is all there is.

This perspective is contrary to one who subscribes to Intelligent Design. A supporter of Intelligent Design would feel that the results of an intelligent agency can be detected empirically and that the natural world bears evidence of intelligent agency. They would also likely say that naturalism is not only bad philosophy but bad science (we’ll look at this more in depth later).

When dealing with Intelligent Design there are two important facts to keep in mind. First, Intelligent Design is not creationism. I will go into more details later but let me state that Intelligent Design does not account for who designed the world, only that it was designed. In other words, Intelligent Design does not require a belief in God.

Secondly, from a Christian perspective, it is important to remember that Intelligent Design is not an apologetic. Although it does have implications for use in apologetics, it is more pre-evangelistic in nature. (Kind of hard to use it to defend God’s existence if it doesn’t require God’s existence eh?)

Okay, I think that’s good enough for a brief introduction to our topic. I think that this post will be the most complicated of all of them because it sets the foundation. I would recommend re-reading it a few times if you are still confused.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Introduction to Intelligent Design

Parents listen up. If you have children in the United States public school system, these next few posts will be very important to you. As the debate over evolution becomes more and more common in our court system, you need to be armed with a basic understanding of the issues.

Earlier this week I read a news article entitled Pennsylvania Lawmakers Debate Evolution in Schools. The article went on to explain that there was a big debate over whether or not to allow “Intelligent Design” theory in public schools before a federal court. Definitely not uncommon. However, having studied this concept at the Master’s level, I was more than interested to read the article.

Predictably, I was saddened at the lack of understanding of Intelligent Design theory, especially by such a large group of educated people.

As such, I’ve decided to do a series on Intelligent Design. As you can imagine ID can be a pretty complex topic so my goal is to break it down into bite sized pieces that make sense.

I want to look at topics like: What is Intelligent Design? Is Intelligent Design really just hidden creationism? Is it in use anywhere today?

Now I’ll be upfront, the purpose of this series is NOT to defeat Darwinism or evolution; nor is it designed to explain Specified Complexity. Those are a topics better suited to a different series at some point in the future. The purpose of this series is simply to help make the theory of Intelligent Design a little more understandable. As always, I’ll do my best to quote from reputable Scholars so you have a chance to research what I have stated, on your own.

As you go through the series and learn more about what Intelligent Design is and is not, I’d like you to keep in mind the following quote from the article as it shows a very common attitude from the ACLU towards the theory of Intelligent Design”

“’How many new biotechnology companies will want to locate here in Pennsylvania if our students are being taught a watered-down version of the complexities of evolution?’ asked Larry Frankel, legislative director for the state’s ACLU chapter”

If you would like to read the article in its entirety, Click Here

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Great Omission

I was reading a book by Robertson McQuilkin (I know, what a name) called The Great Omission. The following story is taken from that book. I thought it was pretty thought provoking and wanted to share it with you.

In a dream I found myself on an island – Sheep Island. Across the island sheep were scattered and lost. Soon I learned that a forest fire was sweeping across from the opposite side. It seemed that all were doomed to destruction unless there were some way of escape. Although there were many unofficial maps, I had a copy of the official map and there discovered that indeed there is a bridge to the mainland, a narrow bridge, built, it was said, at incredible cost.

My job, I was told, would be to get the sheep across that bridge. I discovered many shepherds herding the sheep who were found and seeking to corral those who were within easy access to the bridge. But most of the sheep were far off and the shepherds seeking them few. The sheep near the fire knew they were in trouble and were frightened; those at a distance were peacefully grazing, enjoying life.

I noticed two shepherds near the bridge whispering to one another and laughing. I moved near them to hear the cause of joy in such a dismal setting. “Perhaps the chasm is narrow somewhere, and at least the strong sheep have opportunity to save themselves,” one said. “Maybe the current is gentle and the stream shallow. Then the courageous, at least, can make it across.” The other responded, “That may well be. In fact, wouldn’t it be great if this proves to be no island at all? Perhaps it is just a peninsula and great multitudes of sheep are already safe. Surely the owner would have provided some alternative route.” And so they relaxed and went about other business.

In my mind I began to ponder their theories: Why would the owner have gone to such great expense to build a bridge, especially since it is a narrow bridge and many of the sheep refuse to cross it even when they find it? In fact, if there is a better way by which many will be saved more easily, building the bridge is a terrible blunder. And if this isn’t an island, after all, what is to keep the fire from sweeping right across into the mainland and destroying everything? As I pondered these things I heard a quiet voice behind me saying, “There is a better reason than the logic of it, my friend. Logic alone could lead you either way. Look at your map.”

There on the map, by the bridge, I saw a quotation from the first undershepherd, Peter: “For neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no way from the island to the mainland whereby a sheep may be saved.” And then I discerned, carved on the old rugged bridge itself, “I am the bridge. No sheep escapes to safety but by me.”

In a world in which nine of every ten people is lost, three of four have never heard the way out, and one of every two cannot hear, the church sleeps on. “How come?” Could it be we think there must be some other way? Or perhaps we don’t really care that much.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I Was Just Thinking...

I was taking a break from the never ending task of planning my wedding (I had no idea it would be this intense) and I began to look back over my journal of some of my experiences as a prison chaplain. I came across the following entry and it got me thinking:

...I also learned that there are Chaplains from many other religions out of the same office that we are in. I found this interesting due to the belief structures of some other religions. For example, Christian Scientists do not believe in the problem of sin or evil so what would a Christian Scientist Chaplain give as cause for the person who is in jail? Buddhists believe life is an illusion so are those bars that are keeping you locked up an illusion too? Muslims believe that Allah predestines everything so what do you say to a Muslim who is behind bars? “Sorry, but stop complaining because Allah clearly wants you there?” I hope I have an opportunity to talk with some of these other Chaplains over the course of my time there.

I haven't really come up with the answer to these questions yet. Perhaps it is because God created each one of us to love and care for our fellow man. Of course this naturally leads to the question "Why would God create us to care for our fellow man unless He cares for him too?" If this is true, that God does care for man, than there may be serious contradctions in these religious worldviews as they do not necessarily promote a God that is caring and loving. This then brings us back full circle to my original question of why are some of these other chaplains here? Interesting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I'm Back!

Okay, It’s official…… I am back! Thank you for your patience with me and this website as it has been neglected for the past few weeks.

As I stated earlier I just finished my Master’s degree in Christian Apologetics (defending the truths of Christianity) and I’m not sure if I’m now wiser or even more confused than when I started

As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the day after I graduated I was off to Scotland to work with some Christians who have been in an intensive 10 month leadership training program.

And then to top it all off, I got engaged to the most amazing woman in the whole world last week. (I know every guy says that their wife is the most amazing woman in the world but that’s only because they haven’t met my Emily).

So needless to say it has been a stressful few weeks… But I have recouped and am ready to hit the ground running.

I’d like to say thank you to Tony for his kind words about my site in his newsletter. For those of you who are new to Reason To Believe I’d like to say welcome. The goal of this site is to show that there are intelligent and logical evidences for the truth of Christianity and that a life without a relationship with Jesus Christ is really no life at all.

I’m thinking about beginning a series on abortion but as always I am open to any ideas from you, simply send me an email at “RemovingDoubts AT aol DOT com” (You just need to replace AT with the @ sign and DOT with a period [I have to do this thanks to the SPAM]).

Again welcome to the site and thanks for stopping by

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Current Status

Hello All,

For those who read this site regularly I apologize for my lack of posting throughout the month of May. I am finishing up my last semester in my Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics program and I am swamped. Projects are due, deadlines passed, things are crazy!

I plan to resume blogging very shortly. I have some travel coming up immediately after my graduation next week so hopefully as soon as that is done we'll dive right back in to where we left off.

Thanks for your support, patience and understanding,


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – Conclusion

Over the past 8 posts you’ve joined me on a journey to determine whether or not Jesus of Nazareth really died on the cross and rose again from the dead, or if the story is just a legend passed on for centuries. In our journey we covered a lot of territory and I want to briefly recap what we learned. First we looked at what the resurrection is and is not.

We then looked at five separate factors increase the reliability of information we are looking at. While none of these factors alone can 100% prove anything, taken together they make for a powerful argument.

Next we looked at the evidence of the empty tomb. We examined the burial procedures that were used and we identified participants and eyewitnesses that ensured Jesus’ body made it into the tomb. We learned that both believer and skeptic alike agreed that the tomb was empty and we identified by name, those that discovered and verified that the tomb was empty.

We then examined the multiple appearances of Jesus after his death. We saw how sometimes he appeared to individuals and other times he appeared to large groups. We also saw the consistency that ran throughout these appearance narratives.

After looking at the appearances we examined the behavior of the eyewitnesses. In other words, we put their words aside and looked at their actions. We saw that despite having every reason not to, the disciples were convinced of Jesus’ resurrection. We concluded by determining that no one dies for what they know to be a lie, and yet every single disciple (minus 1 who was banished to a remote island) were executed for their belief in the resurrection.

We then finished our study by looking at some of the alternative views to the resurrection. We examined what each theory claims and then looked at them in light of what we learned about the resurrection.

I hope you have been able to see that there are clear, rational, and logical reasons for believing in the resurrection of Jesus as a true historical event. Perhaps in the past you’ve asked yourself “What makes Jesus so different from any other historical figure?” Well, I can take you to the grave of Buddha, Mohammad, and Gandhi, but I cannot take you to the grave of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person in all of history to claim to be God, and then back it up by raising himself from the dead. I can’t think of any stronger evidence one can show than by single handedly conquering death and for that I believe in him and his message; that because of our sins, the only way to God is by belief in his Son Jesus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – Alternative Views

So far I’ve laid out what I believe to be a strong case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, having studied apologetics extensively I have come across several “alternative views” to the resurrection. I’d like to take a closer look at some of the most popular alternative views and then comment on them in light of what we’ve learned in the past several posts.

The first alternative view is the “Legend Theory.” That is, the New Testament accounts of the resurrection are the product of a legend produced over time. Well there are some basic evidentiary problems with this view. The biggest problem is that the historical documents narrating the event can be traced back to a time period when eyewitnesses were alive whom could easily refute the account. These documents trace back to the original disciples that were involved as well as the original location (Jerusalem) of the resurrection. Additionally, many Scholars agree that a legend takes a minimum of 2 generations to develop. Therefore, there simply wasn’t enough time, nor is there enough evidence to support this theory.

The second alternative view is the “Swoon Theory.” This view holds that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, he just swooned, and was awakened while in the tomb. No one really holds to this view anymore except for Muslims. Here’s the problem – to hold to the swoon theory one must believe:

First, Christ didn’t die on the cross. Then the professional Roman executioners whose lives were on the line if the punishment wasn’t carried out, didn’t ensure he was dead. (Remember they didn’t need to break his legs). Next, the spear in his side which both split open his lung and pierced his heart didn’t kill him. The incredible agony and stress leading up to his execution in addition to his weakened state due to the floggings and beatings didn’t precipitate his death. Then with no food or drink or way to ease his suffering he had to lay in a pitch black tomb. Next, in his weakened condition he would have to get up from under 92 pounds of spices and burial clothes that were bound so tight they eliminated any movement. He would then need to find and roll back the stone at the entrance of the tomb which historians agree was a wheel made of granite, 8 feet in diameter and 1 foot thick weighing about 4 tons, all by himself. He would have to do this silently because after he moved back the stone he would still need to sneak past the guards and escape so he could appear to his disciples as active and radiant.

Is this reasonable to believe? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

The third alternative view is that someone stole the body. Well right off the bat there are two things to notice. First, it presupposes the tomb was indeed empty, and second it assumes that someone knew where the correct tomb was located. But there are some big problems with this theory. First, it doesn’t explain why the disciples believed they saw the risen Jesus. Second, it doesn’t explain why Paul or James (neither of which believed in Jesus while he was alive) converted to Christianity. Thirdly, even if this was true, it would only explain the empty tomb, it wouldn’t disprove the resurrection.

The fourth alternative view I’ve heard is the “Wrong Tomb Theory.” That is, Jesus’ followers went to the wrong tomb. This theory is full of problems. First, we have absolutely no ancient documents that say they went to the wrong tomb (Remember, we know from Matthew that the Jewish authorities had to bribe the guards so say the body was stolen, not that they went to the wrong tomb). Secondly, we know the tomb was owned by Joseph of Aramethea (and his servants) and therefore could have easily been pointed out the location of the correct tomb. But perhaps the most powerful evidence is that the Bible claims the correct location of the tomb was known by many (See Mark 15:47, Matthew 27:61, Luke 23:55, John 19:39). But regardless, even if the disciples did go to the wrong tomb, it still wouldn’t account for the appearances of the risen Jesus to the disciples.

The fifth alternative view is that of naturalism. That is, “Only science proves what is true.” However we must look at exactly what science is. Science only relates to what can be observed and tested. By definition, a historical event cannot be observed and tested and therefore all historical events must then be disqualified. So you can’t argue that science can be used to “prove” historical events. But a more important aspect of this view is that it is self-refuting. Science, in and of itself, cannot prove that only what science proves is true. In other words, you can’t put take “science” into a laboratory, observe it and record observations and discover that only what science proves is true. Therefore, the statement cancels itself out. As if that wasn’t enough, there are many things we accept that are outside of the purview of science. Things like "love" and "ideas" cannot be observed or measured but no one denies they exist.

The sixth and final alternative view is the “Hallucination Theory.” That is, the disciples must have hallucinated when they saw the risen Christ. This view may seem reasonable at first glance, but let’s look a little deeper. Hallucinations occur to individuals, they do not appear to groups. However Jesus appeared to both individuals AND groups (remember appearing to the 500 at one time). He was also seen by friend AND foe over a period of forty days. Hallucinations don’t last for 40 days. According to most Psychiatrists, hallucinations generally only appear to certain kinds of people: those that are high-strung, highly imaginative, and very nervous. Yet Christ appeared to multiple people, in a strict Jewish culture, under very different circumstances. It doesn’t seem logical for all of them to have a hallucination. But even if one does hold to the hallucination theory, it still doesn’t explain the empty tomb.

I realize there are many other alternative views out there but space doesn’t allow me to address them. I hope that you are able to see that when people give you alternative views to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, you don’t need to be nervous. Instead look deeper into what they are claiming and compare it to what you’ve learned about Christ’s resurrection. I believe you will quickly see that when one objectively looks at the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, the truth of the event shines through and all other views quickly fall away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – Dying For A Cause

So far we’ve looked at written documents left behind by the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. I’d like to transition from looking at their writings to looking at their lives. I don’t know if you are like me, but often times I feel that “talk is cheap.” I am much more interested in actions than I am in words. That’s why I believe the evidence of the eyewitnesses’ lives is just as powerful as the documents they left behind. The Disciples clearly believed they had seen Jesus Christ appear to them after they saw him executed; their words, actions and the course of the rest of their lives hinged on this one central belief.

Before we can truly understand their behavior, we must look at what their mindset was to help us understand what was really going on. For those who have studied the Bible you know that the Messiah was supposed to liberate Israel from the Roman oppressors. He was not supposed to be executed by them. This is what made it so difficult for the Disciples to understand Jesus’ predictions about his death. So when we examine the behavior of the Disciples, we see a group of men who abandoned and denied Jesus at the time of his arrest and execution who suddenly turned into men who boldly and publicly proclaimed his resurrection to the point they were executed for it. We must ask ourselves what was the origin of this belief? There are really only two options: influence from either Jewish or Pagan sources (you can’t argue for Christian influence because Christian influence hadn’t been invented yet).

To argue the origin was from Pagan influences is absurd. People will often quote ancient Greek mythology stories involving a resurrection (unfortunately these people don’t realize the first traceable mythological resurrection story is dated to 100 years AFTER Jesus’ time). To claim that the early Disciples thought their friend would come back to life based on Greek folk tales would be like you thinking your friend came back from the dead because you saw the movie E.T. Clearly Pagan mythology is not the appropriate way to understand the resurrection story.

The second option is from Jewish influences. We know that the concept of the resurrection wasn’t a new concept for a Jew as it was found in many places throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 26:19, Daniel 12:2, Ezekiel 37). However the Jewish belief of the resurrection was ALWAYS after the end of the world and NEVER before that. This is the frame of mind the disciples brought with them in approaching the resurrection. This helps explain why it was so hard for them to understand Jesus’ predictions about rising from the dead; the resurrection only occurs at the end of the world. Given the 1st century Jewish beliefs about resurrection you cannot explain the Disciples and other early Christians belief in the resurrection of Christ outside of the actual event itself

But let’s put this aside for a moment. I want to focus on what I think is the most powerful argument that the Disciples saw Jesus Christ raised from the dead. The Disciples were willing to die for their belief. Now let me be clear about this, being willing to die for a cause does not verify the truth of their statements, it just verifies the sincerity of their statements. (For example, the terrorists that flew into the world trade center were sincere in their beliefs that this horrific act would secure their place in paradise, but that doesn’t mean that the act actually did secure their place). Every single one of the Disciples (minus John who was banished to an island) and numerous other witnesses of Christ’s resurrection were executed for their belief in the resurrection. Now many of these people weren’t killed immediately. Some had up to 30+ years before their death. It just doesn’t make sense why someone would go 30+ years knowingly believing a lie and then giving their lives for that lie. So how do we know the Disciples died specifically because of their belief in Jesus? Well, in addition to the Bible we have several non-Biblical sources that record these accounts: Clement (1 Clement 5:2-7), Ignatius (Letter to Smyrna 3:2-3), Polycarp (To the Philippians 9:2), Dionysus of Corinth (cited by Eusebius in Eccleastical History 2:25:8), Tertullian (Scorpiace 15), and Origen (Contra Celsum 2:56, 77) are just a few.

It is very important that we take into consideration the behavior of the disciples after Christ’s resurrection. We know they believed they had seen the risen Jesus, despite having every reason to the contrary, to the point they willingly gave their lives in defense of that belief. That is powerful evidence! Perhaps Jewish Rabbi Pinchas Lapide said it best:

“This scared, frightened band of the apostles, which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation”

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – The Appearances

Well, so far we have looked at the accuracy of the burial account and established the fact that the tomb was empty. But big deal, all an empty tomb tells us is that the body wasn’t there. This leads us to our second area of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus; the multiple appearances of Jesus Christ after his execution. Had Jesus only appeared to one of the disciples, it would be pretty difficult to believe he had resurrected from the dead. But Jesus didn’t appear to just one person. Instead he appeared to many different people, individually and in groups, over a span of time. I won’t go into exquisite detail of the resurrection appearances as books have been written about this topic, nor do I want to investigate the appearances as recorded by the gospels, rather I want to examine the appearances from the perspective of Paul as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. Although the gospels record the different appearances of Jesus quite adequately, I want to look at Paul’s account for two reasons. First, almost all Scholars agree that Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians predates all four of the Gospels which makes it the earliest account that we have. Secondly, because in reading 1 Corinthians we have an authentic letter from the former chief persecutor of the Christian church who was an eyewitness to, and also in contact with other eyewitnesses to, the risen Jesus. This makes his testimony much more powerful than any of the gospel writers.

1 Corinthians 15:5-8 reads:

“and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Although this passage takes up a little bit of space, it packs in lots of important information. Paul first mentions that Jesus appeared to Peter. This account is independently attested to in Luke 24:33-34. (Remember what I said earlier, that events are much more credible if more than one source records it [Multiple Independent Attestation in Scholar speak]). Paul then mentions that Jesus appeared to the 12 disciples. This is account is independently attested to by Luke in Luke 24:36-43 and John in John 20:19-20.

Next Paul mentions that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at once. 500 people! Now sometimes when I mention this people will point out that this account isn’t found anywhere else in the New Testament (which I guess implies it isn’t as credible?). But I’m not so sure about that. Some people believe, me included, that this appearance to the 500 is recorded in Matthew 28:16-17 which reads “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.”

Let me tell you why I believe these were the same appearance. First, it was on a mountain. Mountains were necessary to accommodate large groups of people (remember the feeding of the 5,000 and the teaching of the Beatitudes were on mountains). Secondly, it was by appointment. The disciples were told to go there and wait for Jesus. This provided plenty of time for other people to hear the news and gather together as well. Thirdly, Matthew records that “some doubted.” Who were these people? Surely not the disciples. Could they have been some of those 500 that had gathered around? I know my argument isn’t airtight but that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be. Even if Matthew is talking about a totally different appearance that doesn’t discount the authenticity of Paul’s record. It simply means we don’t have a second record of it. More important than the number of sources is Paul’s challenge. When Paul writes “most whom are still living yet some have fallen asleep” he is directly challenging his readers to verify the accounts for themselves. By knowing that some have died (fallen asleep) Paul is showing he isn’t just passing along some story but that he is personally acquainted with these individuals. He must know who these people are to know which ones are dead and which ones are alive. On a side note, just to help explain the magnitude of these 500 witnesses seeing Jesus alive after his execution, if all 500 of these witnesses were brought into a courtroom and each one spoke for only 6 minutes, you would have 50 hours of courtroom testimony.

Continuing on with our study, we see that next Jesus appeared to James, Jesus’ own brother. Now according to Galatians 1:19, we know that Paul had firsthand information of this appearance by talking directly with James when he traveled to Jerusalem. Okay, quick pause for background information, even though they grew up together, James did NOT believe that his brother Jesus, was the Messiah nor the son of God. We know this from both Mark 3:21 and John 7:5. We also know that after Jesus’ death James DID become a believer in Jesus. We know this because James was executed by the Sanhedrin in 65 AD for leading the church in Jerusalem. So how do we explain this conversion of James to faith in Jesus? Here’s an even better question: what type of event would need to take place to convince you that your brother was the Lord and would cause you to be willing to be executed for that belief? I don’t know about you, but for me it would take nothing less than seeing my brother come back from the dead.

According to Paul, Jesus then appeared to the apostles again and then finally appeared to Paul himself. Although we’ve only looked at one small passage regarding the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, I hope you can see that Jesus appeared to many people over a span of time in the very city he was killed in. He didn’t appear to just one person way out in the woods never to be heard from again; that is of course unless you believe the account of Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – The Empty Tomb – Part 3

So far we’ve looked at several different aspects of the empty tomb. We know that we have reliable and accurate information telling us that the body was placed into the tomb. We know that the resurrection account started in very location the death and burial took place providing many opportunities for those eyewitnesses involved to be thoroughly questioned. Next we discovered that despite every logical reason for it to be the disciples, it was women who discovered the empty tomb. Finally we examined that both Peter and John went and verified the women’s story.

In wrapping up our analysis of the empty tomb, I want too look at a few other factors that I think provide further evidence the tomb was indeed empty. The first factor is Jewish cultural reverence for its Rabbis. In ancient Judaism the graves of Rabbis were carefully cared for and honored. In some cases, the Rabbi’s students would visit the grave of their Rabbi every year. This is important for two reasons. First, people would have a vested interest in knowing where the tomb was in order to visit it. Many had been healed or had their lives changed by Jesus’ ministry. It is reasonable to think that they would have an interest in where the gravesite was. This leads credence to the fact that the location of the tomb was known by many. Secondly, there is no report of people hanging around Jesus’ tomb years after his execution. Although it doesn’t “prove” anything, the absence of veneration at the tomb of Jesus does highly suggest that the tomb was empty. In other words, if the tomb was empty, than it would have lost its significance as an object of veneration.

A second, and very powerful, evidence for the empty tomb is the response by the Jewish authorities. The very first, and only, response we have from the Jewish authorities is found in Matthew 28:12-15 which says “And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' "And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble." And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.” Now for a moment let's ignore the rather obvious information presented here, that is, that the Jewish authorities had to bribe the guards to cover the incident up. Instead let’s look at the inferences that can be made from this account. First off, the fact that they were trying to bribe the guards to say the disciples stole the body presupposes that the tomb was empty. If the tomb wasn’t empty, why say the body was stolen? Secondly, this account eliminates the argument of “they went to the wrong tomb.” If the Jewish authorities were bribing the guards, then they not only knew the tomb was empty, but they knew the location of the correct tomb. The fact that the earliest, and only, Jewish response to the empty tomb allows for both the location of the tomb to be known as well as a verification of the tomb being empty provides a very powerful argument in favor of Jesus’ resurrection.

Although the gospel accounts can easily stand up to the toughest scrutiny, there are other accounts outside of the Bible that specifically mention the empty tomb. Justin Martyr, Trypho 108, and Tertullian De Spectaculis 30 are just a few of the sources that validate that the tomb was empty.

As our examination of the empty tomb comes to a close I’d like you to remember what I said in the introduction to this series. First, we need to access what are the facts. So far we’ve investigated the burial account, eyewitness testimony, the Jewish leader’s response and non-biblical sources, all of which independently verify the truth that the tomb of Jesus was empty two days (three by Jewish timekeeping) after his execution. The second thing we need to do is ask ourselves what is the most reasonable explanation of these facts? The way I understand it, there are only two possible explanations for the empty tomb. The first explanation is that it was a human work. But which humans? Jesus’ enemies had the power to empty the tomb, but they had no motive. Jesus’ followers had the motive to empty the tomb, but they lacked the power. I believe the most reasonable explanation to the empty tomb is the second option, that is that God in his incredible and limitless power, raised Jesus from the dead.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – The Empty Tomb – Part 2

In my last post we examined the accuracy of the burial account. We learned who was responsible for burying Jesus and the implications that knowledge has on the story as a whole. In this post I want to examine the accounts of those that discovered the empty tomb. This is important because we need to know that we have credible testimony as to what really happened.

The Bible presents women as key eyewitnesses to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Now unless this was actually the case, there is no reason to portray anyone other than the disciples as having been there at the cross. If you and I had sat down and were inventing the story of Jesus, would it make sense to include these minor players as opposed to the disciples? After all the disciples were major players during the life of Jesus so why shouldn’t they be major players at his death and burial? It just doesn’t make sense unless it truly happened that way. However the story doesn’t stop there. Mark writes in his gospel (Mark 16:1) the very names of these women! Since the Mark’s account was written so early this has huge implications. By listing these women’s names these women could have easily been questioned about the truthfulness of the event.

But I think there is an even stronger piece of evidence than just the fact the eyewitnesses were known by name. The written record of the empty tomb being discovered by women is unheard of in the ancient world. Now we must look at these records through the eyes of a 1st century Jew. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but women had zero status in ancient Jewish society. Their testimony was considered so worthless that they were not even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in court. So why would the gospel writers state that women were the initial discoverers of the empty tomb unless it historically happened that way? If I were living in that culture at that time and I was making up a story, I would be a fool to use women as eyewitnesses to an event I was trying to record as truly happening. No one would take that account seriously. Instead I would have recorded the disciples as being the discoverers of the empty tomb. But we know the disciples were nowhere to be found but rather were probably hiding, fearful for their own lives, somewhere in Jerusalem. Why would the gospel writers, or even the early Christian church intentionally humiliate its male leaders by recording them as hiding in Jerusalem while mere women carried out the proper burial procedures? I can find no reasonable explanation other than because it actually happened that way. The criterion of embarrassment (that an event is more likely to be true if it is embarrassing for those recording it) strongly supports the historical account of women finding the empty tomb.

So we know that women discovered the tomb empty, but what about the disciples? Well both Luke (24:12, 24) and John (20:3) tell us that both Peter and John went to the empty tomb to investigate it for themselves. Now both Luke and John’s accounts are independent of each other so we have the criterion of Multiple Independent Attestation occurring in our records of their investigation. Secondly, John writes of himself as an eyewitness (John 21:24). Being an eyewitness exponentially increases both the credibility and accuracy of his testimony. Sometimes I am asked why only two of the disciples went to go check out the women’s story. Although we don’t know for sure there are several plausible possibilities. First, the other disciples may not have believed the women (after all, women held no status and no one would believe their friend came back from the dead). Second, maybe the disciples were fearful of their lives so they only felt comfortable sending out two. Thirdly, it’s possible that the women only came across Peter and John and the other disciples weren’t present. Regardless of which reason is true, the important thing isn’t the number that checked out the tomb, but rather that someone did in fact go and check it out. It seems to me that it is more implausible to think they would have stood by, listened to the women’s account, and not gone to check it out.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – The Empty Tomb – Part 1

The first aspect of the resurrection I’d like to look at is that of the empty tomb. I think the empty tomb is a very powerful argument for the resurrection of Christ. However before we can look at the empty tomb we need to start with the burial account. Looking at the burial account is important for two reasons: First, before we can accept a tomb as being empty we need to know for sure the body was there in the first place and second because if the burial story is fundamentally correct, than the site of Jesus’ grave in Jerusalem was known to both Jew and Christians alike and that has radical implications.

As far as my research shows, the burial account is almost universally accepted by Scholars as being factual. Now this has important implications because you can’t deny the historicity of the empty tomb without denying the historicity of the burial story. The burial account is also part of Mark’s gospel (Mark 15:42-47) and most Scholars agree that Mark’s gospel is the oldest. (Scholar Rudolph Pesch argues that Mark was written within 7 years of Jesus' execution). This is important not only because the older something is the less likely it could have been started by legend but because it allows for the eyewitnesses to still be interviewed.

So how do we know Jesus' body actually made it into the tomb? The Bible states that Joseph of Arimathea is the man responsible for burying Jesus but it doesn’t stop there. It goes on to include incidental details like “he was a rich man.” This is important because we know Jesus was buried in a bench tomb and bench tombs belonged only to the wealthy. We also know that the body had to be in the tomb before the first evening star, otherwise it would defile the entire land. The burial also had to be completed quickly as the Sabbath was coming and no work could be done on the Sabbath. Therefore the burial had to take place late on the day of his crucifixion. Now we know that Jesus died at about 3pm and the Sabbath started around 6pm. Therefore, Joseph of Arimathea probably had servants to assist him in the burial as touching the body would have defiled him for the coming Passover meal. Now let’s think about it, if Joseph had helpers, than more than one person not only knew for 100% where the tomb was, but they also knew for a fact that the body had been put in the tomb. Remember, these men were associated with the Sanhedrin and NOT Jesus’ followers. This leads me to my next point; it is highly unlikely that early Christians would have invented a story involving a practicing member of the Sanhedrin. There was a tremendous hostility towards the Sanhedrin by the early Christians and therefore no reason to attribute the account as such unless it actually happened that way.

Some diehards may still refuse to believe the burial account, but this leads to a major problem; no other burial tradition exists. If Jesus wasn’t buried by Joseph of Arimathea we have no other burial story to go on. Nothing is offered by the Jews, nothing at all. This is hard to explain unless the gospel account is the true account.

So looking back at the details regarding Joseph and his servants, I think it is safe to say we know the body was in the tomb. But I think there is another powerful evidence regarding the empty tomb that we tend to overlook, that is, the geographical origins of the resurrection. Now let’s think about it, it would have been impossible for Christianity to start in a city where Jesus’ body lie. To prove that Christianity was false, all the Jewish leaders had to do was exhume the body for all to see. They wouldn’t have needed to prove the corpse belonged to Jesus as the burden of proof would have then shifted to the disciples. I can’t overstate enough the importance of the location of the origin of the empty tomb narrative. It didn’t begin in some far off land like Rome, or Greece, but it began in the very city the execution and burial took place. The very place where the most independent eyewitnesses could be interviewed. This presents a powerful argument for the historicity of the burial account and the empty tomb.

I think Wilbur Smith said it best when he said “Let it simply be said that we know more about the details of the hours immediately before and the actual death of Jesus, in and near Jerusalem, than we know about the death of any other one man in all the ancient world.”

Friday, April 01, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – Factors Increasing Reliability

As we begin to look at the historical accounts of Jesus’ triumph over death, there are five factors that increase the reliability of the information we’ll be investigating. I present these factors now because starting with my next post we are going to dive right into our study and I want you to be on the lookout for examples of these different factors. Although none of these factors in and of themselves prove the truth of the information, taken as a whole I think they present a pretty powerful argument.

The first factor is called “Multiple Independent Attestation” or MIA. MIA essentially asserts that if a particular statement or event about Jesus is written by multiple sources and those sources are early, then those events are much more likely that they are to be historically true. Many of the recorded events we have of the ancient world are single source, or only have one record of them. However the Bible presents multiple accounts of the same event. Look at it this way, if you were on a jury determining the fate of the defendant, would you rather have testimony from one witness or many?

The second factor that increases reliability is called “Double Dissimilarity” or in plain english “embarrassment.” In other words, if an event was embarrassing or awkward for the early church, than these are more likely to be historically true. For example, the early church would probably not make up a story about Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. John the Baptist baptized sinners for repentance. Jesus was sinless and wouldn’t therefore need to be baptized. To imply that the Son of God needed to repent was blasphemous. The early church would not make this up.

The third factor that increases reliability is that of eyewitness testimony. The New Testament writers Paul, John and Matthew were all eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:16 “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” On top of that, Mark was a scribe for Peter and Luke was a scribe for Paul. Having eyewitness testimony as opposed to hearsay (third hand information) creates for a much stronger case. Many a criminals have been sentenced based solely on eyewitness testimony.

The fourth factor that increases reliability is the accuracy of the manuscripts. Now I’m not going to go into detail about it here because it is a topic worthy of its own post. However, I will say that we have over 24,000 manuscripts and manuscript fragments of the Bible which is far more than that of any other ancient document. We have so many that the next closest is Homer’s Iliad with 643 copies. A close examination of those manuscripts with the Bible we have today puts the accuracy at about 99.7%.

The fifth and final factor increasing reliability is that of non-biblical sources. Although powerful, the New Testament is not the only record we have of the resurrection. As you will see, there are many records of the resurrection outside of the Bible.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – Introduction

I know it has been a few days since my last post and I apologize to all my regular viewers, things have been a bit hectic. Hopefully you’ll forgive me. I thought in the spirit of Easter this would be a good time to address the issue of the resurrection; that is whether or not Jesus really rose from the dead. Perhaps no other issue in Christianity is as important as this one. 1 Corinthians 15 states that the truth of Christianity rests on whether or not Jesus raised from the dead.

So what’s the deal? After all, people just don’t raise from the dead, that’s what makes them, well, dead. So did Jesus raise from the dead? Better yet, can we even know? I usually hear many questions like this every Easter so I’d like to take some time over my next few posts and take a look at some pivotal issues of the resurrection.

As with the series on Mormonism, there is no possible way to examine every single piece of evidence for and against the resurrection. However, I will do my best to provide a thorough yet concise (is this even possible?) examination of the evidence.

The first thing we need to do is determine what the resurrection is and is not. First off, the resurrection is not the same thing as immorality of the soul. In other words, the teaching of resurrection of the dead does not mean your soul goes to heaven when you die according to ancient Jewish teachings. Resurrection is also not the same thing as reincarnation. In most eastern philosophies, reincarnation is often thought of as the evil one faces in this life is thought to be punishment for the wrongdoings in previous lives (i.e. Hinduism). However the Bible teaches that man lives once and then stands in God’s judgment. (A good answer to someone who asks why you don’t believe in reincarnation is because you believe in the resurrection). Resurrection is not resuscitation. Resuscitation is the belief that the person is brought back from the dead to their human state and will someday die again. An example of this would be Lazarus in John 11. Rather resurrection is the raising of the dead into this world. Death is a pre-requisite for this.

Okay, so we know what the resurrection isn’t, so what is it? In a biblical view of immortality, God will, at the end of history, raise up people and reconstitute them as persons. We have a preview of this in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now this has lots of theological implications and I am not a theologian so I am going to leave it at that. My purpose in writing this was just to make sure we are all on the same page when you see the term “resurrection.”

If you are a skeptic of the historicity of the resurrection I’d like to ask you for a favor. I’d like to ask you to keep two questions in mind as we go through this series. First, I’d like you to ask “What are the facts?” Second, I’d like you to ask “What is the most reasonable explanation of these facts?”

I sincerely believe that anyone who fairly and objectively looks at the evidence that is about to be set forth, can only come to one conclusion; that Jesus Christ conquered death through His resurrection and therefore showed Himself to be who he really is, God incarnate.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Has God Brought You To A Breaking Point?

Sometimes in our life, both before and after we become followers of Jesus, God will bring us to a breaking point. A breaking point is a period in our life when we are hurting the most and nothing we can humanly do can make it better. Only reliance upon God can provide the strength to get us through. The following is an excerpt from my journal as a prison chaplain about one man’s breaking point:

“…We received a phone call from a guard stating that an inmate had just found out his mother died and was very distraught and he wanted us to come talk with him (It is the responsibility of the Chaplain department to do death notifications). When we got there I realized the guards show absolutely no sensitivity to these prisoners. As we walked up, a guard got on the PA which addresses the entire floor and stated “Will the guy whose mom just died please step forward to meet with the Chaplains.” I felt bad for the prisoner. As I turned to look I saw a man with a shaved head and covered in tattoos walk up to us and identify himself as “Chucky.” We began to talk to him and he told us his mom was in critical condition, could die at any second, and he just wanted to talk with her as he hadn’t seen her in 17 years. He said he was supposed to have been on a bus to see his mom in Pennsylvania on Monday but he got arrested for doing heroin on Sunday night, the night before he left [I met with him on Wednesday]. At that point I watched one of the most hardened looking of all men, break down in tears. We talked to him for a while and he told us that when he was in jail a year ago, he used to attend Dave’s Bible studies (Dave did remember him being there), and that while it is easy to follow that life while in jail, it is very difficult while out on the streets. I really felt God was bringing him to a breaking point. I mean, if the guy would have just said no for 12 more hours, he could have been there with his mother already. We gave him the gospel message as well as a Bible with some scripture to read, and told him we’d see if we could arrange a phone call (prison guidelines are very strict and limited in such circumstances). A half hour after we talked with Chucky we found out that his mom was still alive and at home. She does have cancer but is being treated as an outpatient. I felt really good being able to deliver this news to Chucky and pray that he uses that experience of possible loss to get his life together…In addition to the things I already talked about, I learned a lot of other things today as well. I saw how hopeless these men really are. I felt as though I was in a building designed by God for people he is breaking down and trying to get the attention of. I can’t explain how sad it is to look in the eyes of some of these men, knowing Jesus is the answer for all of their problems, and they are too stubborn to accept it. It really is heart breaking. “

As you can see, through his mother’s illness, God was definitely trying to get Chucky’s attention. Can you think of a time in your life when God brought you to a breaking point? If so, can you look back and see where your walk with God was prior to and now after that event? My guess is your walk with Christ jumped up to the next level after that event. If you are not a follower of Christ is it possible that you are going through a breaking point in your life right now? If so, is it possible that God is trying to get your attention?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

How To Create A God

I read the following quote from Stand To Reason's monthly newsletter called Solid Ground. In it the author, Greg Koukl, poses an interesting question:

If men were to invent a god, what would he be like? If we fashioned a god of our choosing, would we create a god like the one in the Bible?

A god formed by human hands would mirror human sensibilities and human proclivities. He would think and act, more or less, like we do. As our invention, his morality would reflect our desires. When we erred, he'd cluck his disapproval and dismiss our frailties with an affectionate kids-will-be-kids shrug. After all, nobody's perfect. And this is the kind of god many people believe in. Not Christianity though.

The curious thing about the God of the Bible is how unlike us He is. His wisdom confuses us; His purity frightens us. He makes moral demands we can't live up to, then threatens retribution if we don't obey. Instead of being at our beck and call, He defies manipulation. In His economy, the weak and humble prevail and the last become first.

Is the Christian God the kind of god men would create if left to our own devices? Or have we seen the true God and trembled, closed our eyes, hid our faces, and turned our backs with distracting talk about motives and psychological states?

I think this is a great point. If we were to invent a God we would make him just like us. Or at the very least, we would make him in a way that we understand or desire him to be. His rules would be fitting to our wants (i.e. drugs are fine, marriage is not necessary for sex). However, this isn't who God is. As Greg alluded to, I think the very fact that the God of the Bible is so unlike humans, that it should be counted as a powerful evidence of His existence

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Is There One God Or Does Everyone Have Their Own God?

This question was sent to me to me not to long ago Answering this questions depends on how one looks at the question. There are many people that believe in their own God. Some people call this god “money,” others call their god “pleasure.” A god can be anything that you feel is the most important thing in your life. (Which is why the first of the ten commandments prohibits this type of behavior). Unfortunately, none of these gods last past death. As far as gods up in Heaven go, there is only one God. We can know this because God has told us in many different places in the Bible. For example, Isaiah 44:6 says "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me." God has shown us that there aren’t many gods like the Hindus or ancient Greeks believed but just the one true God.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Can You Give Your Soul to the Devil?

I have thought about this question quite a bit over the past few years, especially since I began prison ministry. I must have been asked this question a hundred times and each time it produces an interesting discussion. I think that in order to prevent confusion we must clarify what we are asking.

The people who regularly ask me this question are not referring to a life of rejection of God and Jesus Christ and therefore, by default, choosing an eternity in hell. (This is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16:26). Rather they are talking about whether or not they can physically (or rather, metaphysically for you philosophy giants out there) transfer ownership of their soul to the devil. Imagine if you are buying a used car. That car isn’t yours until the owner hands you the pink slip. Essentially they are asking if they can transfer the pink slip of their soul to the devil.

Often times when prisoners ask me this question it is because they have made some sort of pact with the devil (more often than not while under the influence of drugs). Now that they have sobered up and thought a lot about their decision, they regret it.

Few things give me more joy than to be able to see the look on their faces when I tell them they can’t give their soul to the devil because their soul doesn’t belong to them in the first place, it belongs to God. Therefore they can’t give away something that they don’t have ownership or possession of. It is one of Satan’s great pleasures to lie to us and convince us that we can give our soul to him and then he sits back and watches the depression, sorrow and helplessness it brings. The look of relief on a prisoner’s face who hears this good news is indescribable.

Now don’t get me wrong, as I already stated, a person can willfully choose to reject God and therefore is securing an eternity away from God, however, a person cannot transfer ownership, or the title deed, for the rest of their natural life, to his soul. In other words, if you are still alive, and I presume you are since you are reading this, you aren't "too far gone" or "it's already too late." Taking it further, one could ask: If one could give away his soul to the devil, than how could he come to the place where he is sorry for his sins? In other words, if his soul is gone, he has no ability to realize he is a sinner and needs Jesus in his life for forgiveness. Those qualities and abilities are found in the soul and out of Satan’s hatred for Christ it doesn’t seem likely he would want you focusing on his enemy, Jesus Christ.

God created our souls and they belong to him. We simply choose where they go after death based on our acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ. Below is an excerpt from a journal I kept about my experiences in prison ministry. As you read it, try to imagine yourself in Samuel’s shoes, sitting behind bars with nothing to do all day but think about your life, what you’ve done where you've been and where your're going.

After walking the upper row we walked down the stairs where one of the inmates chained to the TV tables was calling for us. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in hindsight I really feel that this was a “divine appointment” from God. We walked up to him and he identified himself as “Samuel.” Samuel seemed very coherent and I wondered why he was on floor 7 (the mental ward) but I decided not to ask. Samuel wanted to know whether or not it was too late for him to go to heaven because one night while doing drugs he’d given away 90% of his soul to Satan in exchange for protection of his daughter. Samuel fully understood who Christ was and why he died for him and told us that he’d accepted him into his life multiple times. We talked with Samuel for a while and I explained to him that his soul wasn’t his to give away; he could only choose to accept or deny Christ, but that was it. Samuel seemed to understand this and it seemed that a huge load had been lifted off of his shoulders. We prayed with Samuel and told him we would meet with him next week. I really felt encouraged that God is doing a work in Samuel’s life and this was the highlight of my day.

Now since Samuel had accepted Christ into his life previously we could go into a discussion about eternal security, but that isn't my point. My point is that Samuel was at a place where he knew what he did was wrong and that he wanted Christ's forgiveness. If you have given away your soul, you can't come to that place.

One final point to note is that God loves us. He sent his son to die for us. He knows we are sinners and that we do stupid stuff all the time. The character of God is that he will give us every opportunity to come to him but he will never force it. He won't withhold his love for us based on a "technicality" that we gave our soul to the devil. God is not a petty legalist rather he is a God that loves us. John 3:16 states "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Did you notice it didn't mention anything about "except for those who have given away their souls?" Isn't it wonderful that we have a God of love.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Conclusion to the Series on Mormonism

Well friends we finally made it. After a little over a month of studying the claims of Mormonism we have finally come to the end of our series. I want to conclude this series by taking a brief look at where we’ve been.

First we looked at what Mormons believe and how they view the beginning of their religion. We studied the history of Joseph Smith’s visitation by the Angel Moroni as a 17 year old in the woods of New York and how he was given the history of the America’s by God as a means of restoring the “true church.” Looking towards their beliefs we learned they believe we all pre-existed as spirit children and were sent to this earth to work out our salvation so that when we die we can go to one of three levels of heaven.

We then began to examine the claims of Joseph Smith. We saw how both the Bible and the book of Mormon require all prophecies of a prophet to come true in order to know that person is a true prophet of God. We then looked at a few of the 60+ prophecies of Joseph Smith that didn’t come true. In other words, Joseph Smith couldn’t live up to the requirements of either the Bible or the book of Mormon.

Next we looked at the Book of Mormon. We studied it using some basic techniques of textual criticism. We learned that not long after Joseph Smith received his golden tablets, many of the original eyewitnesses denied the event ever took place. We saw that although the book of Mormon claims to record the history of the Americas, not one piece of archaeological evidence can be presented to support it. In fact, the Smithsonian has even published a document stating so. We finished up our study of the book of Mormon by looking at some of the changes made to it, as well as some of the plagiarizing that took place.

We then looked at the doctrine of salvation according to Mormonism. We learned that Mormons believe in a general salvation and an individual salvation. Individual salvation is dependent upon your good works and the doctrine of salvation by grace, as Christians believe, will, according to Joseph Fielding Smith, lead one into damnation.

We closed out our series by comparing Christianity and Mormonism side by side in areas of essential doctrine. We saw that at no time do Mormons and Christians believe the same thing in the areas of God, Jesus, the Bible, and Salvation. All of which are doctrines at the foundation of one’s faith.

When I set out on this series, I realized I would probably step on many people’s toes, especially those who are members of the Mormon Church. That was never my intention. My intention was to force Mormons to take a good, objective look at the teachings of their faith. I quoted from different Mormon texts as well as great Mormon leaders and provided references for anyone to investigate it for themselves.

I know there are literally thousands of resources on Mormonism available. Some are good others not so good. If you would like to learn more about Mormonism I would encourage you to look into the following resources:

Click Here to go to Christian Apologetics Research Ministry. This website will provide a good starting ground for learning more about Mormonism.

Click Here to go to This site is run by many ex-Mormons and provides a tremendous amount of information.

Click Here to visit perhaps the best resource available to those investigating Mormonism. This is the online version of a book written by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, two former Mormons. It is easy to use and very informative.

For those of you who prefer to read books, there are two books I really recommend. For those who want an easy book to understand I recommend Clicking Here to purchase a great book by Ron Rhodes.

For those who like a little more meat in their reading. Click Here to order a fantastic new book that is making waves in the Academic Community.

Again, thank you for your time in staying with me through this series. This series was done at the request of someone who sent me an email asking me my thoughts about Mormonism. If you have other topics, series or not, you’d like to see addressed here, you can send me an email requesting so. My email address can be found by clicking on “View My Complete Profile” located on the column on the left side.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Are Mormons Christians?

I know you may be starting to feel a bit tired of all these posts about Mormonism so don’t worry the light is at the end of the tunnel. In this, my second to last post on the topic of Mormonism, I wanted to focus on a comparison between Mormon doctrines and Christian Doctrines. Often times I’ve talked with Mormon’s who try to convince me that they are Christians just like me. They’ll tell me they believe in God, they believe in Jesus, the plan of salvation, and they believe in the Bible too. In the past when they would say this, I’d be stuck not knowing what to do. Then I learned an important lesson I’d like to pass on to you. Whenever they say they believe in the same thing you do, the most important thing you can do is stop and define your terms. In other words, you could say "We both believe in God, but who do you believe God is?" What is the authority of the Bible? What is your understanding of who Jesus is? Another way would be to explain your beliefs. For example, you could say “Well I believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all three persons of the same God. Do you believe that?” This is critical to avoid any misunderstandings about exactly what you are talking about. After all, both Muslims and Christians believe in Jesus; however Christians believe Jesus to be fully God and fully man while Muslims just believe he was a good prophet. Does that make Muslims Christian? Of course not. So in this post I wanted to briefly look at some of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity in some very fundamental areas and let you decide for yourself if Mormon’s are Christian.


Christians believe:
1. God is a spirit without flesh and bones (John 4:24, Psalm 139:7-10)
2. God is not a man (Numbers 23:19, Romans 1:22-23)
3. There is only one God (Isaiah 44:6,8, 45:5, John 10:30)
4. God has always been God (Psalm 90:2)

Mormons believe:
1. God the Father has a body of flesh and bones, (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22).
2. God exists in the form of a man (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, pg. 3.)
3. There are many gods (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 163., pg 576-577)
4. God was once a man (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 345)


Christians believe:
1. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18, 23-24)
2. Jesus was the creator of all things and therefore was not the brother of the devil (Colossians 1:16-17)
3. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity (John 10:30)

Mormons Believe:
1. God had sexual relations with Mary to make the body of Jesus (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 218, 1857; vol. 8, p. 115.)
2. Jesus was a created being and therefore Jesus is the brother of the devil. (Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie pg. 192, 589. Gospel Through the Ages by Milton Hunter, P. 15)
3. Jesus is one of three gods (Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie pg. 319)

The Bible

Christians believe:
1. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God. It is authoritative over all (2 Timothy 3:16)
2. The word of God will live forever (Matthew 24:35, Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:25)

Mormons believe:
1. The Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. (8th Article of Faith of the Mormon Church)
2. The gospel was lost from earth (Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 3, pg. 265-326, Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie pg. 44)


Christians believe:
1. Those who don’t believe in Jesus are condemned to hell (John 3:16-18, Matthew 10:28, Revelation 20:15)
2. The blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all sin (Romans 5:8-9, 1 John 1:7)

Mormons believe:
1. Some degree of salvation will come to everyone. In other words, the atonement [the atonement is a fancy word used to describe Jesus’ act of putting humans in correct standing before God] was universal for all. (Articles of Faith by James Talmage, pg. 85, 91-92)
2. Some sins cannot be paid for by Christ’s blood (Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie pg. 93, Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph F. Smith Vol. 1, pg. 135)

I could show many more but space doesn’t allow but I think you get the point. Although the same terminology is used, Mormons and Christians mean very different things when talking about issues central to their faith. Christians who are reading this, I want to encourage you in that anytime you are sharing your faith with someone and they say “Oh, I believe in God too” or “Oh, I believe in Jesus”, please don’t stop there and assume they believe in the same God or the same Jesus you do. Ask questions. Ask about who this God is? What did Jesus do? How come Jesus was qualified to pay the price on the cross? If you are like me, you’ll quickly be surprised at how often we assume the people we are talking to hold to the same beliefs we do, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Do Mormons Believe in Salvation by Faith or by Works? Part 2

Before reading this post, I'd highly recommend re-reading the previous one. It will help with the flow of this post and I think it will make more sense if you read them together. Okay well we've got a lot to cover today so let's get right into it. For those who have talked with Mormon missionaries in the past (You’ve probably seen them around in your neighborhood. They are typically young men that wear white shirts with ties, dark pants, and ride on bicycles) know that talking about salvation can be confusing. Even I’ve had conversations where I walked away scratching my head because what they said sounded similar to what I believe. However, after doing some more studying into Mormon doctrine, I realized why this was confusing. When Mormons speak of salvation, there are actually two different salvations being discussed. The first is called “General Salvation.” They will commonly refer to this as “Salvation by Grace” (not to be confused with the Christian definition of Salvation by Grace). This General Salvation only refers to a person’s immortality and resurrection from the dead. It does NOT refer to where they are going when they die or to what degree. Basically it allows for the POSSIBILITY for one to have a spirit body and to have spirit children but doesn’t guarantee anything.

The second type of salvation is called “Individual Salvation.” Now individual salvation is an important one and as stated in Mormon doctrine, this type of salvation is “salvation by works.” (Articles of Faith by James Talmage, pages 92, 144. 2 Nephi 25:23, Alma 7:16, Doctrines & Covenants 132:12). So what exactly are these works that one must do? One Mormon I spoke with gave me a list. He said the following were necessary for salvation to the “highest level”:

Baptism in a Mormon church
Regular attendance at Mormon Church
Consistent good works
Attaining worthiness
Engaging in temple work (rituals)

Now you can probably immediately see some of the problems I have with this list. The first is what about circumstances out of your control? For example, what if you are unable to regularly attend church due to illness? For example, let’s say you are bed ridden. Or what if you live in a very rural area and there is no church for hundreds of miles; then what? How much exactly is "consistent attendance" Every week? 50 out of 52 weeks a year? What is the standard? My second problem is that these requirements are entirely subjective. What is the standard for “Attaining worthiness?” By who’s definition? The Church? The Apostle’s? God’s? Jesus? My own? What objective standards do I use? What about “Consistent good works?” Is that consistently throughout the hour? The day? A lifetime? How many are enough? When do you know? What is the scale of good deeds to bad deeds? How many times must you help an old lady across the street to “work off” murdering someone?

In addition to these criterion I have found that one must accept Mormon leadership for salvation. For example, In Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 1, page 186 it states “There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.” (Also see Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses Volume 9 page 312). Well if you read my previous post on Joseph Smith’s lack of fulfillment of the criteria of a prophet of God, you’ll see we have a very serious problem here. If I can show that Joseph Smith can’t live up to his OR God’s standards as a prophet and therefore choose not to recognize him as such, how can I have salvation?

Okay so now we have a basic understanding of what Mormon’s believe the goal and method of salvation to be. So now let’s compare this with what the Bible has to say. Anyone who has read through the Bible can tell you that it essentially has one underlying theme running consistently through it. That theme is the nature of man, the problem of sin and Jesus Christ as payment for that sin and therefore those who believe in Him and his work on the cross can spend eternity in Heaven with God. The Bible makes it very, very clear in many verses that belief in Christ Jesus is the ONLY way to get to Heaven and that no amount of works can do that for us. While Ephesians 2:8-9 are the most commonly cited, there are several more. Here are just a few of the verses that show this critical truth: (Pay special attention to the parts I marked in bold)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” – Titus 3:5-7

“And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:9-11

“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16
I could go on and on but I think you get the point. The Bible specifically states that you can’t do good works to get to heaven. (At this point some Mormons would argue that James 2:20 says the opposite, however, when read in its proper context, one can see that this verse is stating that if you truly have a relationship with Christ; your works will show it. It is not saying that you have to have works to be justified). So what does the Bible say the way to salvation is? Check out the following

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”. – John 14:6

"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – John 17:3

“And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." – Acts16:30-31

Although these are only three of the many others, did you notice something similar about them? That’s right, they all talk about Jesus Christ as the way to salvation and not works. This is the core belief of Christianity. That faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. So what do Mormons think about this “Salvation only by faith in Christ” doctrine? Well, Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the Mormon Church, said “Mankind is damned by the faith alone doctrine” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2 pg. 139). Apostle Bruce McConkie said “Many Protestants erroneously conclude that men are saved by grace alone without doing the works of righteousness” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 2, pg. 229).

I hope over the past two posts you’ve been able to see that Christians and Mormons do not share the same beliefs regarding salvation. Mormons believe in three levels of heaven with the goal being to reach the highest level. They believe Jesus Christ was no different than you or me except he didn’t have a physical human father like we do. Christ had to work out his own salvation and it had no bearing on my salvation or yours. They use the term “Saved by Grace” to refer to the fact that they believe in immortality and bodily resurrection. A more important component called “Individual Salvation” is by works only. This flies directly in the face of Christian beliefs. Christians believe that there is one heaven and one hell. They believe that Jesus was God incarnate, that is he was 100% God and 100% man, who came to the earth, lived a perfect life without sin, and was therefore uniquely qualified to pay the price for sin on behalf of mankind. Christians believe that putting one’s faith in Jesus as God and for payment for our sins is sufficient to have eternal life. (See 1 John 5:11-12). When faced with the Christian view of salvation, Mormon leadership has effectively branded it as heresy.

To my Mormon friends visiting this site, I urge you to consider what has been written. I hope you see that both of these views cannot be right. One must be wrong. I urge you to look at the evidence as presented throughout this series. I have not merely stated my own theories but have quoted extensively from Mormon sources. It is my prayer that you will see that out of His love for us, Jesus Christ has already paid the price for your sins. There is no amount of works that are good enough to buy your way into heaven and rightfully so because that would cheapen the honor of being there. Rather He has already purchased heaven’s entrance ticket for you, and is holding it out for you to accept. Won’t you put your faith in the Jesus of the Bible today?