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Archive for the ‘Discernment’ Category

from Got Questions:

The increasing number of natural disasters and terrible storms have many people wondering, who controls the weather, God or Satan? Some point to the descriptions of Satan as the “prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2 and the “god of this world” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 as evidence for Satan having control over weather. An examination of Scripture reveals that whatever influence Satan and his demon angels have over the weather is restricted by God’s ultimate sovereignty. The Devil, our “adversary,” must be taken seriously; we should acknowledge his existence and his limited power over the secular world. At the same time, Satan, a defeated fallen angel, is super-human but not divine, having only the power that God ultimately allows (2 Thessalonians 2:6-11).

If Satan could impact the weather, it would only be by God’s permission, and restrained, as in the case of Job. Satan was allowed by God to torment Job in order to test him, and this included “the fire of God” (probably lightning) which “fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants” (Job 1:16). This was followed by a “mighty wind” (possibly a tornado) that destroyed his home and killed his children (vv. 18-19). So if the fire from heaven and the tornado were somehow caused by Satan, they were still under the ultimate control of God for His purposes.

It is God, not Satan, who controls the weather (Exodus 9:29; Psalm 135:6-7; Jeremiah 10:13).
God controls the skies and the rain (Psalm 77:16-19).
God controls the wind (Mark 4:35-41; Jeremiah 51:16).
God upholds and sustains the universe (Hebrews 1:3).
God has power over the clouds (Job 37:11-12, 16).
God has power over lightning (Psalm 18:14).
God has power over all nature (Job 26).

God is in control of all things, including the weather. Through His providence, God provides for and protects His children, but He also permits Satan, demons, and mankind to exercise their limited will to commit acts of sin, evil, and wickedness. These same beings are fully responsible for any and all man-made disasters and tragedies they cause. We know that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:36), and therefore His invisible hand is in our pain, even though He cannot sin or be the perpetrator of evil (James 1:13-17).

There can be no meaningless suffering for the believer, whether the suffering is caused by mankind or by a natural event. We may not always know why evil acts or natural disasters happen, but we can be assured that in all our trials and tribulations God is working all things together for His glory and for our everlasting good (Romans 8:18-28).

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from CCC Discover:

As a pastor, I’m often asked by friends outside the church whether there’s any difference between the major world religions. After all—the thinking goes—aren’t they all communicating the importance of love? Don’t they share a common basis in morality?

With all the religious tension in the world, it’d be great to simply conclude that all religions are, at their core, essentially the same. If that’s the case, it’s pointless to argue about dogma, and the thought of going to war over differences becomes incomprehensible. Despite what may be good intentions in emphasizing the similarities across religions, there are real problems with assuming that “all religions just teach love.”

While it’s true that many of the great world religions share common moral teachings, the idea that this means “all religions are basically the same” assumes that morality is the essence of religion, and that the distinct aspects of each religion are peripheral to their primary message of moral uprightness. In truth, the religions of the world, while sharing some similarities, also contain irreconcilable teachings.

As a Christian pastor, I teach that Jesus Christ died on a cross for the sin of the world and that he rose again from the dead after three days. According to the earliest followers of Jesus, that message was the cardinal truth of Christianity. In fact, to dismiss it would be to destroy the Christian faith altogether. Here’s how one of Jesus’ earliest followers put it,

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Cor. 15:13-15)

This man, the apostle Paul, taught that if the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t true, then the Christian faith was in vain. What’s more, if the resurrection didn’t happen, then the moral teaching didn’t matter. He continued, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Cor. 15:32). In other words, if the resurrection is a hoax, we’re wasting our time with all of this “religion stuff.” Paul wasn’t the only one who realized the importance of the resurrection. Jesus repeatedly talked to his disciples about the bodily resurrection (Jn. 5:25-29Mk. 8:319:31Mt. 16:21).

When a person concludes that all religions are basically the same, they’re defining the various religions of the world on their own terms instead of letting the terms define themselves. If religion is primarily about being a good person, then sure, many of the religions out there can assist someone in modifying their behavior, but religions like Christianity aren’t essentially about being “good people.” The Christian religion is all about the God who lovingly pursued people who weren’t very good at all, in fact. That’s why the message of Christ’s death and resurrection is one of the vital organs of Christianity.

How do we get to heaven in Christianity? Not by being good people, but by believing in God’s descent to us. God pursued us by coming to earth, and then he stood in the place of sinners, taking the death our sins had earned so that he might give us the life we didn’t merit. Many religions out there teach love, but none of them have a message of love quite like this. In Christianity, it’s God’s love toward broken people that comes first. That’s what makes Christianity different. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16)

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from Pastor Bill Randles Blog:

I was heartened the other day when I read that the President of the United States took time out of his busy schedule to allow an “Evangelical Minister” to lay hands on Him and pray. He needs prayer, and the support of the evangelical church, as much as possible.

But then my joy turned to angst when I read further, that the “evangelical minister” who prayed for Trump, was in fact a spiritually dangerous counterfeit, a purveyor of false doctrine and gnostic, experience based spirituality named Rodney Howard Browne.

I shouldn’t have been surprised because one of the President’s closest Spiritual advisor, is  a televangelist and Word of Faith heresy  proponent Paula White who is of the same heretical ilk as Rodney Howard Browne.

In short Rodney Howard Browne is the Father of the so called “Laughing Revival” of mysticism and Spiritual Drunkenness which led directly to the disastrously destructive “Toronto Blessing” which spread through Pentecostal, Charismatic and Even evangelical churches in the late 1990’s spreading heresy, false doctrine, mystical experience, deception and delusion throughout the world.

Howard Browne is famous for calling himself the “Holy Ghost Bartender” and inducing people into states of Spiritual Drunkenness, and has destroyed much of what was left of the sense of the true Fear of God in many, many Pentecostal, Charismatic churches. I consider him a minister of Judgment and part of the Strong, God sent Delusion.

In the interest of discernment and for the sake of real prayer by real Christians, I am excerpting a chapter of my 1995 book, WEIGHED AND FOUND WANTING;PUTTING THE TORNOTO BLESSING IN CONTEXT, to let you know just who this man is.

 

Who Is Rodney Howard Browne?

He was born into a Pentecostal home, an atmosphere that was bathed in prayer. By his own testimony, he was saved at the age of five and baptized in the Holy Spirit at age eight. Both at home and in the Pentecostal church he attended, he testifies of

“continually [seeing] supernatural manifestations.”2
His own “baptism of fire” occurred in 1979, while he was still a teenager. Hereis how he tells it.

I knew that there was more, much more…In July of 1979, I cried out to God in sheer desperation. I wanted Him to manifest Himself to me and in me. I was hungry…As I prayed that day, I told the Lord, “Either you come down here and touch me, or I am going to come up there and touch you.” I was desperate. I must have called out to God for about 20 minutes that day. Suddenly, the fire of God fell on me. It started on my head and went right down to my feet. His power burned in my body and stayed like that for three whole days…I was really praying, “Lord, I am too young to die.” In the fourth day, I am not praying, “O Lord send your glory,” I am praying, “Please lift it off me so that I can bear it.” I was plugged into heaven’s electric light supply…my desire has been to go and plug other people in. My whole body was on fire…Out of my belly began to flow a river of living water. I began to laugh uncontrollably and then I began to weep and then speak with tongues. I was so intoxicated on the wine of the Holy Ghost that I was beside myself…Because of that encounter with the Lord, my life was radically changed from that day on.3

Rodney Howard Browne proceeds in the book to relate changes in his ministry after that anointing with fire, while preaching in a Methodist church. I’ll let him tell it in his own humorous way.

We were preaching in a Methodist church. I was back in the vestibule—which is a holy name for a plain old office—preparing for service. One of the young ladies came into the office and asked me to pray for her because she was in terrible pain…I got my hand halfway to her head, almost like a gunslinger would draw a gun out of a holster, and point it at his opponent. Suddenly, unexpectedly, it felt like my finger tips came off. I felt a full volume of anointing flow out of my hand. The only way I can explain it is to liken it to a fireman holding a fire hose with a full volume of water flowing out of it. The anointing went right into her. It looked like someone had hit her in the head with an invisible baseball bat and she fell to the floor…4

On and on it goes.

Notice the sensuality of the testimony, though. The fire of God courses through his body, it shoots out of his fingers, like a gun, she gets hit by an invisible bat! The concept behind the word sensual is not always referring to “sexual.” Sensual refers to the things pertaining to the five physical senses. Rodney Howard Browne has a very sensual ministry. The promise is held out that you are going to be touched by God, you’re going to feel God, you’ll even get drunk on the new wine! You’ll laugh, stagger, get stuck to the floor, and generally have an all out good time! It’s “fun” going to these meetings!

Back to Who is Rodney Howard Browne?

In 1987, Rodney Howard Browne left his native South Africa to come to the

United States, on a “word from God.” By that time, he had already pioneered a church, pastored for a time and been on the pastoral staff of Ray McCauley’s Rhema Bible Church in Johannesburg. Upon arriving in America, he commenced an itinerant ministry.

It was at a series of meetings in Albany, New York in 1989 that the unusual manifestations had begun to take place. It began to occur at a time when both he and his wife were hungry for God to move. As he was preaching at a morning meeting, he said a cloud filled the room, visible to others, but not to him. He could feel it, though. People began falling out of their seats as he preached.

While I was preaching, the power of God began to fall. Many people began to fall out of their seats. It looked like someone was shooting them and in some places whole rows at a time would go down. They were laughing and crying and falling all over the place and looked like drunken people.5

Rodney Howard Browne became an internationally prominent revivalist after a Spring, 1993 meeting at an Assembly of God church in Lakeland, Florida, the Carpenter’s Home Church. He was scheduled for one week, but the meeting lasted four! People who heard about it flew in from as far away as Africa, Great Britain and Argentina. What made the difference in this revival meeting? According to Charisma Magazine,

The difference was the laughter. No matter what Howard Browne did or said, hundreds who attended the daily sessions always ended up on the sanctuary floor in helpless laughter. When the services were broadcast on radio, more curious seekers showed up to join the fun.6

In Conclusion

I suppose I could go on and on, “building a case,” about my reservations of the ministry of Rodney Howard Browne, but why? After all of the above, if you don’t have serious problems, you are also a victim of the continuous conditioning that has taken place. Keep in mind that it was a transference of his “anointing” into Randy Clark who brought “it” to Toronto, that “birthed” the Toronto Blessing. I hope that I have brought some clarity to the issue. This is not about personality, it’s about truth. Can you see Jesus or the apostles even remotely promoting anything like this? I think not.

 

Is Rodney Howard Browne correct when he dismisses his critics by saying things like,

Now some would say, “I don’t believe it,” that’s fine, those people that don’t want to believe it, they probably wouldn’t believe anything. They probably wouldn’t believe the Bible…16

On the contrary, I don’t buy this, and I believe in the Bible! I also believe in the present activity of the Holy Spirit. I consider myself to be spirit filled and have seen many “signs, wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost” over the years in my ministry as well as in many other fellow ministers. We have witnessed the casting out of devils, healing of the sick, and powerful life transformations, all to confirm the preaching of the gospel! So don’t dismiss me as an unbelieving, religious dead head!

I want to close this chapter by encouraging you to hold fast to that which is good. We know that certain men have crept in unawares, but that doesn’t mean that we have to throw out the validity of supernatural workings of God. The Pentecostal experience is needed now more than ever, God’s people do need a fresh baptism in the Holy Ghost, to witness afresh to this sin-sick generation.

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from Got Questions:

The Eastern Orthodox Church is not a single church but rather a family of 13 self-governing bodies, denominated by the nation in which they are located (e.g., the Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church). They are united in their understanding of the sacraments, doctrine, liturgy, and church government, but each administers its own affairs.

The head of each Orthodox church is called a “patriarch” or “metropolitan.” The patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) is considered the ecumenical—or universal—patriarch. He is the closest thing to a counterpart to the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike the Pope, who is known as VICARIUS FILIUS DEI (the vicar of the Son of God), the bishop of Constantinople is known as PRIMUS INTER PARES (the first amongst equals). He enjoys special honor, but he has no power to interfere with the 12 other Orthodox communions.

The Orthodox Church claims to be the one true church of Christ, and seeks to trace its origin back to the original apostles through an unbroken chain of apostolic succession. Orthodox thinkers debate the spiritual status of Roman Catholics and Protestants, and a few still consider them heretics. Like Catholics and Protestants, however, Orthodox believers affirm the Trinity, the Bible as the Word of God, Jesus as God the Son, and many other biblical doctrines. However, in doctrine, they have much more in common with Roman Catholics than they do with Protestant Christians.

Sadly, the doctrine of justification by faith is virtually absent from the history and theology of the Orthodox Church. Rather, Orthodoxy emphasizes theosis (literally, “divinization”), the gradual process by which Christians become more and more like Christ. What many in the Orthodox tradition fail to understand is that “divinization” is the progressive result of salvation, not a requirement for salvation itself. Other Orthodox distinctives that are in conflict with the Bible include:

The equal authority of church tradition and Scripture
Discouragement of individuals interpreting the Bible apart from tradition
The perpetual virginity of Mary
Prayer for the dead
Baptism of infants without reference to individual responsibility and faith
The possibility of receiving salvation after death
The possibility of losing salvation

While the Eastern Orthodox Church has claimed some of the church’s great voices, and while there are many in the Orthodox tradition that have a genuine salvation relationship with Jesus Christ, the Orthodox church itself does not speak with a clear message that can be harmonized with the biblical gospel of Christ. The call of the Reformers for “Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, and Christ alone” is missing in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and that is too precious a treasure to do without.

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from CCC Discover:

Talk of sin and grace is out of style. Now, before we attack the culture, secularism, or those other Christians who are not part of our tribe, it’s important to ask two questions: Do I believe in sin and grace as a reality? Do I recognize sinfulness in my own life, and do I see God’s ongoing, supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in my life as a work of God’s grace?

Sin and grace are core doctrines of Christianity. Sin, rebellion against God, a state of defiance—this is not just something I do, but something I am. To be a human being, Christian or non-Christian, is to be a sinner.

This is important because only sinners are saved by grace, and Christians remain sinners. Holiness, sanctification, the work of the Spirit is only begun—Christians won’t see perfection in this life.

We are declared saints and we are becoming saints, but we don’t completely model sainthood yet. We still sin. We still have twisted desires. We still feel the tensions of this present evil age working within our heart. Anyone who is married can confirm this. A spouse is a good mirror to reveal our worst side.

So how does our denial of sin and grace show itself in our life?

1. We reveal a grace-denying heart when we treat God casually.

To treat God casually is to lose a sense that God is holy. It’s an attempt to tame God, to ignore the sides we don’t like. It’s like treating a lion as a house cat. Michael Horton explains it this way:

[T]he transcendent God of majesty and holiness succumbed to a casual familiarity. Although only one in ten Americans say that they have ever doubted God’s existence, most say that they view God exclusively as a friend rather than as a king and “only a small minority” report having ever experienced fear of God. (Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, 53)

When you read the Bible, you don’t find a God to be taken lightly. God is king over all creation. God is holy. God is working in the world to save it. God is not my homeboy, nor is God a genie granting wishes or a grandfatherly figure who turns his face from evil.

2. We reveal a grace-denying heart when we treat the gospel therapeutically.

To treat the gospel therapeutically shows itself in many ways. Tony Robbins’ I Am Not Your Guru is a good example (although please do not watch this if vulgar language offends you). The people who come to events like Tony Robbins’ pay a lot of money to find themselves, improve themselves, become successful, or find healing from some tragedy.

These are all legitimate pursuits, and maybe people like Tony Robbins, despite his language, can help people. But this is not Christianity. Christianity is not a wholesome alternative to self-improvement. God never promised prosperity or comfort in this life. The apostles were not successful by the world’s standards.

It’s true that God cares about our well-being. He provides for our needs. He wants to heal our broken lives. He wants to help us in our weaknesses. He wants to move us to good works for the sake of others. But the difference between therapy and the gospel lies in one important distinction: God cares about so much more than our emotional well-being. The gospel is not a self-help program to make us feel better. Michael Horton explains it this way:

[A]s religion is privatized into a kind of therapeutic usefulness, sin and redemption are translated in subjective rather than objective categories. Christ, then, is the answer to bad feelings, not any actual state of enmity or guilt before God. Everything that used to be considered a sovereign work of God, through his appointed means of preaching and sacrament, is now attributed to the self (or the evangelist) working through the most efficient steps and techniques. We recognize this pragmatic orientation in the “how-to” literature that lines the shelves of Christian bookstores and pastors’ studies. (Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, 53)

Salvation is more than therapy, and often the gospel leaves us weak, broken, and suffering so that God can demonstrate his grace in our lives for the sake of those around us. This seems counter-intuitive, but that is the point. God gets the glory when God keeps us dependent upon his grace and mercy.

3. We reveal a grace-denying heart when we make excuses for our own graceless Christianity.

It’s important in these discussions to realize that I am just as guilty for a therapy approach to Christianity. It’s easy to find a sinless and graceless Christianity in everyone else, but that is not the point. Self-help religion is our natural wiring. It’s easy to see this in others, but much harder to see this in my own heart. The answer to the temptation to turn the gospel of grace into a self-help religion of good morals or successful living demands practice.

  • We need to hear the law. We need to hear that we ourselves are still sinners. We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to engage in regular self-reflection and self-criticism. We need to expose our own sinful hearts, and allow the light of God’s Word to reveal our sinful desires.
  • We need to confess our sins and our continual need for grace to God. We need to pray: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:14).
  • We need to continually hear the message of grace: that God accepts us as his children through faith in Jesus and that God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us, to keep us focused on Jesus, to draw us to love those around us.
  • We need to look at other people tempted by the same self-help religion and love them. We need to be a gracious presence in their life. We need to remind them of the gospel. We need to pray with them and for them. And we need to hope that they will do the same for us.

When hearing about self-help religion, it’s easy to become proud thinking that we are immune and that we are the solution, that we need to go around pointing out sins and exposing people’s graceless approach to Christianity. But we need to watch out that our approach is not itself graceless self-help.

If we think that we are the “successful” Christians who have all our theology figured out and are truly committed to the way, we need to ask ourselves some important questions: “Is this the heart that the Holy Spirit produces?” “Do I treat others expecting that the Holy Spirit will help them?” “Is my approach toward people kind?”

Self-help religion is a problem, but so is being a graceless jerk. May God help us in both areas to continually seek the grace of acceptance with God and the grace of the Holy Spirit’s power to love people as much as doctrine. As Christians, our hope is not in how much we believe grace or how much our lives reveal the effects of grace. Our hope is in the grace of God, and the gospel is the good news that God is gracious and merciful to us.

 

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“Francis has tried to clamp down on unethical behaviour ever since being made Pope in 2013 and has often spoken out against the pitfalls of ‘temptation’.”

This is exponentially worse than temptation! This is clear evidence of a reprobate mind! Clear Evidence of a polluted man made organization very far from a Godly Church!

 

from The Daily Mail:

Vatican police have broken up a gay orgy at the home of the secretary to one of Pope Francis’s key advisers, it has been reported.

The flat belonged to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is in charge of tackling clerical sexual abuse.

When police showed up, they found drugs and a group of men engaged in sexual activity, local reports state.

Reports in Italy claim the occupant of the apartment is allegedly the secretary to Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio – a key aide to the 80-year-old Pope

Coccopalmerio heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative texts and was said to have once recommended his secretary for a promotion to bishop.

The explosive claims were made in the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

It is the latest scandal to hit the Vatican and comes after its finance chief Cardinal George Pell was charged with historical sexual offences.

Pell has protested his innocence and said he was looking forward to having his day in court after a two-year investigation, ‘leaks to the media’ and ‘relentless character assassination’.  Police have not revealed details of the charges against the 76-year-old, citing the need to preserve the integrity of the judicial process.

In March the Vatican was hit with a wave of lurid accusations of misbehaving priests across Italy with scandals involving orgies, prostitution and porn videos.

The claims were embarrassing to the Vatican, which under Pope Francis has attempted to demand high standards of the clergy.

Francis has tried to clamp down on unethical behaviour ever since being made Pope in 2013 and has often spoken out against the pitfalls of ‘temptation’.

 

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from Got Questions:

It is a fairly well-established fact that Jesus Christ was publicly executed in Judea in the 1st Century A.D., under Pontius Pilate, by means of crucifixion, at the behest of the Jewish Sanhedrin. The non-Christian historical accounts of Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Maimonides and even the Jewish Sanhedrin corroborate the early Christian eyewitness accounts of these important historical aspects of the death of Jesus Christ.

As for His resurrection, there are several lines of evidence which make for a compelling case. The late jurisprudential prodigy and international statesman Sir Lionel Luckhoo (of The Guinness Book of World Records fame for his unprecedented 245 consecutive defense murder trial acquittals) epitomized Christian enthusiasm and confidence in the strength of the case for the resurrection when he wrote, “I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

The secular community’s response to the same evidence has been predictably apathetic in accordance with their steadfast commitment to methodological naturalism. For those unfamiliar with the term, methodological naturalism is the human endeavor of explaining everything in terms of natural causes and natural causes only. If an alleged historical event defies natural explanation (e.g., a miraculous resurrection), secular scholars generally treat it with overwhelming skepticism, regardless of the evidence, no matter how favorable and compelling it may be.

In our view, such an unwavering allegiance to natural causes regardless of substantive evidence to the contrary is not conducive to an impartial (and therefore adequate) investigation of the evidence. We agree with Dr. Wernher von Braun and numerous others who still believe that forcing a popular philosophical predisposition upon the evidence hinders objectivity. Or in the words of Dr. von Braun, “To be forced to believe only one conclusion… would violate the very objectivity of science itself.”

Having said that, let us now examine several lines of evidence for Christ’s resurrection.

The First Line of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

To begin with, we have demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony. Early Christian apologists cited hundreds of eyewitnesses, some of whom documented their own alleged experiences. Many of these eyewitnesses willfully and resolutely endured prolonged torture and death rather than repudiate their testimony. This fact attests to their sincerity, ruling out deception on their part. According to the historical record (The Book of Acts 4:1-17; Pliny’s Letters to Trajan X, 97, etc) most Christians could end their suffering simply by renouncing the faith. Instead, it seems that most opted to endure the suffering and proclaim Christ’s resurrection unto death.

Granted, while martyrdom is remarkable, it is not necessarily compelling. It does not validate a belief so much as it authenticates a believer (by demonstrating his or her sincerity in a tangible way). What makes the earliest Christian martyrs remarkable is that they knew whether or not what they were professing was true. They either saw Jesus Christ alive-and-well after His death or they did not. This is extraordinary. If it was all just a lie, why would so many perpetuate it given their circumstances? Why would they all knowingly cling to such an unprofitable lie in the face of persecution, imprisonment, torture, and death?

While the September 11, 2001, suicide hijackers undoubtedly believed what they professed (as evidenced by their willingness to die for it), they could not and did not know if it was true. They put their faith in traditions passed down to them over many generations. In contrast, the early Christian martyrs were the first generation. Either they saw what they claimed to see, or they did not.

Among the most illustrious of the professed eyewitnesses were the Apostles. They collectively underwent an undeniable change following the alleged post-resurrection appearances of Christ. Immediately following His crucifixion, they hid in fear for their lives. Following the resurrection they took to the streets, boldly proclaiming the resurrection despite intensifying persecution. What accounts for their sudden and dramatic change? It certainly was not financial gain. The Apostles gave up everything they had to preach the resurrection, including their lives.

The Second Line of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

A second line of evidence concerns the conversion of certain key skeptics, most notably Paul and James. Paul was of his own admission a violent persecutor of the early Church. After what he described as an encounter with the resurrected Christ, Paul underwent an immediate and drastic change from a vicious persecutor of the Church to one of its most prolific and selfless defenders. Like many early Christians, Paul suffered impoverishment, persecution, beatings, imprisonment, and execution for his steadfast commitment to Christ’s resurrection.

James was skeptical, though not as hostile as Paul. A purported post-resurrection encounter with Christ turned him into an inimitable believer, a leader of the Church in Jerusalem. We still have what scholars generally accept to be one of his letters to the early Church. Like Paul, James willingly suffered and died for his testimony, a fact which attests to the sincerity of his belief (see The Book of Acts and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews XX, ix, 1).

The Third and Fourth Lines of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

A third line and fourth line of evidence concern enemy attestation to the empty tomb and the fact that faith in the resurrection took root in Jerusalem. Jesus was publicly executed and buried in Jerusalem. It would have been impossible for faith in His resurrection to take root in Jerusalem while His body was still in the tomb where the Sanhedrin could exhume it, put it on public display, and thereby expose the hoax. Instead, the Sanhedrin accused the disciples of stealing the body, apparently in an effort to explain its disappearance (and therefore an empty tomb). How do we explain the fact of the empty tomb? Here are the three most common explanations:

First, the disciples stole the body. If this were the case, they would have known the resurrection was a hoax. They would not therefore have been so willing to suffer and die for it. (See the first line of evidence concerning demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony.) All of the professed eyewitnesses would have known that they hadn’t really seen Christ and were therefore lying. With so many conspirators, surely someone would have confessed, if not to end his own suffering then at least to end the suffering of his friends and family. The first generation of Christians were absolutely brutalized, especially following the conflagration in Rome in A.D. 64 (a fire which Nero allegedly ordered to make room for the expansion of his palace, but which he blamed on the Christians in Rome in an effort to exculpate himself). As the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus recounted in his Annals of Imperial Rome (published just a generation after the fire):

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” (Annals, XV, 44)

Nero illuminated his garden parties with Christians whom he burnt alive. Surely someone would have confessed the truth under the threat of such terrible pain. The fact is, however, we have no record of any early Christian denouncing the faith to end his suffering. Instead, we have multiple accounts of post-resurrection appearances and hundreds of eyewitnesses willing to suffer and die for it.

If the disciples didn’t steal the body, how else do we explain the empty tomb? Some have suggested that Christ faked His death and later escaped from the tomb. This is patently absurd. According to the eyewitness testimony, Christ was beaten, tortured, lacerated, and stabbed. He suffered internal damage, massive blood loss, asphyxiation, and a spear through His heart. There is no good reason to believe that Jesus Christ (or any other man for that matter) could survive such an ordeal, fake His death, sit in a tomb for three days and nights without medical attention, food or water, remove the massive stone which sealed His tomb, escape undetected (without leaving behind a trail of blood), convince hundreds of eyewitnesses that He was resurrected from the death and in good health, and then disappear without a trace. Such a notion is ridiculous.

The Fifth Line of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

Finally, a fifth line of evidence concerns a peculiarity of the eyewitness testimony. In all of the major resurrection narratives, women are credited as the first and primary eyewitnesses. This would be an odd invention since in both the ancient Jewish and Roman cultures women were severely disesteemed. Their testimony was regarded as insubstantial and dismissible. Given this fact, it is highly unlikely that any perpetrators of a hoax in 1st Century Judea would elect women to be their primary witnesses. Of all the male disciples who claimed to see Jesus resurrected, if they all were lying and the resurrection was a scam, why did they pick the most ill-perceived, distrusted witnesses they could find?

Dr. William Lane Craig explains, “When you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what’s really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discoverers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Israel. There are old rabbinical sayings that said, ‘Let the words of Law be burned rather than delivered to women’ and ‘blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female.’ Women’s testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of Law. In light of this, it’s absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women… Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb – Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that – like it or not – they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status.” (Dr. William Lane Craig, quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, p. 293)

In Summary

These lines of evidence: the demonstrable sincerity of the eyewitnesses (and in the Apostles’ case, compelling, inexplicable change), the conversion and demonstrable sincerity of key antagonists- and skeptics-turned-martyrs, the fact of the empty tomb, enemy attestation to the empty tomb, the fact that all of this took place in Jerusalem where faith in the resurrection began and thrived, the testimony of the women, the significance of such testimony given the historical context; all of these strongly attest to the historicity of the resurrection. We encourage our readers to thoughtfully consider these evidences. What do they suggest to you? Having pondered them ourselves, we resolutely affirm Sir Lionel’s declaration:

“The evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

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