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Posts Tagged ‘evidence’

Is Jesus The Only Way to God?

December 8th, 2010
  • Not looking at this question from the Bible as some don’t believe it is a credible source.
  • Every belief system in some way agrees/believes “no” to the statement that Jesus is the only way to God – each believing for very different reasons.

4 different ways of thinking Jesus is not the only way to God:

1. Polytheists – because there are lots of gods

  • How can one person be the way to lots of gods?
  • However, there is no existence for lots of gods and a lot of polytheists don’t think there is either – they just believe it.
  • You need evidence for what you believe – especially claims about God or truth. If people can’t give you any evidence, why should you believe it?
  • Is the polytheistic view then a good reason to reject Jesus as the only way to God?
  • Some believe this way as it’s part of their culture – again, not a good enough reason.
  • We need to look at what we believe – is it valid? Is there evidence?

2. Atheists – because there is no such thing is a god

  • They say it is useless to debate over whether Jesus is the only way to God if there is no God in the first place.
  • Not a compelling reason – whatever evidence for belief in God gets swept under the carpet – e.g. saying real-life miracles don’t qualify as evidence because miracles are impossible.
  • Trying to debate this leads to going round in circles: there is no God because there is no evidence, but miracles wouldn’t be impossible if God existed, but miracles don’t count as evidence, etc.
  • Also – writing off ancient documents as evidence because they don’t understand them.
  • You can’t have a sensible argument with a fundamental atheist.

3. Pluralists – because it’s exclusive, intolerant and will lead to oppression

  • Very common view in Brighton.
  • Yes, believing Jesus is the only way to God is an exclusive belief. But ALL truth claims work that way – truth statements include people who agree and exclude people who disagree.
  • People get scared of exclusive truth claims as they sometimes lead to extremists or oppression, but not always – depends on what the truth claim or belief system actually is – not whether you believe in God or not, but what you believe. If it is ‘kill the infidel’ or ‘people who believe in God are stupid and ignorant’ – both are very exclusive and intolerant and will lead to oppression. But something like believing you should love God and love people as yourself is a different matter.
  • Again, not a good reason for rejecting the belief that Jesus is the only way to God.

4. Monotheists – because Jesus didn’t say he was a way to God, but someone else altogether

  • Saying Christians are wrong about who they believe Jesus was – that Jesus was substituted with someone else on the cross.
  • Muslims and Jews, for example, believe this.
  • This theory came 600 years after Jesus – not very credible.

Christians don’t just believe Jesus is the only way to God – but that he is God incarnate. He is more than just the way – he showed us what God is like. This belief has always been controversial and people have been persecuted for it – but it has persisted. The evidence points this way and is the most plausible and credible explanation.

Did Jesus Do Miracles?

November 29th, 2010

Did the miracles happen?

  • Jesus is well-known for his miracles  or the “mighty works” – not just as a good teacher.
  • We have to come to terms with the miracles. As Western, 21st century people, we try to ignore them – we find ways to escape them or suggest a sense of exaggeration. Like they are legends with inflated stories – well-meaning people wanting to make Jesus look great.
  • People try to pass off the stories as Chinese whispers – legends passed on and added to over time, like Robin Hood. But this won’t do to explain it away – we’ve looked already in previous sessions at how the gospels are well-documented, trustworthy historical documents, which kept to the original facts. Luke is one of the finest historical documents we have.
  • John the Baptist – incredibly well-known and respected in that day – and yet the historical books show not one trace of a miracle. This discounts the idea that popular teachers got inflated with miraculous stories.
  • Jesus’ enemies accused him of doing miracles by the power of the devil – they were trying to explain them away because they were actually happening. They didn’t deny that Jesus was really doing miracles.
  • If these stories were fabricated, the disciples would have come off better in the accounts – but they are not very favourable towards them. They often got it wrong – awkward and embarrassing stories. It’s easy to trust these accounts.
  • Someone (unknown to us, not one of the 12 disciples) was trying to do miracles in the name of Jesus – shows that all across the region Jesus was associated with spiritual powers.
  • It’s bad history to suggest these things were made up. Why then would people believe it was made up? Anti-supernaturalism – ruling out supernatural things – saying they don’t happen at all, like fairy tales. So we fit the evidence around that. But is this reasonable?
  • You can’t scientifically prove these miracles Jesus did – they’re part of ancient history. But does it mean they’re not true? The problem is that not everything can be proven using scientific methods, for example – the very notion that something isn’t true if it isn’t proved scientifically – this statement can’t be proven scientifically! It’s another leap of faith, an assumption.
  • There is an awareness that there is power, a miraculous power. We can take the miracles as history.

Why did Jesus do the miracles he did?

  • Motivated out of tremendous compassion.
  • Feeding 5,000 people from one person’s lunch – wanting to feed them and look after them.
  • So many examples of the mercy and pity and compassion of Jesus – he was always showing it.
  • Look at the way Jesus treated outcasts and those rejected by society, e.g. healing lepers, physically healing a socially outcast woman – those who people couldn’t go near because they were “unclean”.
  • We don’t fully understand how set apart from us God is – how we can’t just waltz on up to him. Bodily diseases like leprosy are symbolic of how unclean we are and how untouchable God is. And yet Jesus showed himself as willing and wanting to help.
  • Example of woman whose back was bent over for 18 years – a terrible infirmity, which would have also been humiliating. The religious leaders cared more about looking after animals on the Sabbath than people, like this woman – saying she shouldn’t be healed. Jesus sees that this is not right – it’s so wrong, not how his Father intended things
  • The man who asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life – Jesus looked on him with love. The same with us – we don’t fully know how much he looks on us with kindness, love, mercy and compassion – he is full of it!
  • Jesus also did miracles for other reasons:

1.     To teach as a parable, e.g. the fig tree that Jesus curses – seems harsh, but he’s really trying to show something symbolically – that God’s people, the people of Israel, are unfruitful and God will judge them.

2.     To show that we can do miracles with faith in him.

3.     To show his authority – his power to forgive sin.

4.     To show the glory of God, to show how glorious he is. We were designed by God to know the glory of God, to be satisfied by his glory. Any other glory we pursue will ultimately disappoint us.

5.     As signs of his kingdom. The world is under darkness and under the power of the evil one, the devil, who is real (not some mythical cartoon-figure), who hates God and hates people. We can see there is evil in the world – and that’s why Jesus came – to destroy the works of the devil and bring in a new, right kingdom – of peace, goodness and wholeness. Jesus won the greatest victory – one day he will completely eradicate sin and sickness and death, bringing in the fullness of his kingdom. We get a taste of it on earth with miracles that happen now. We are all invited into this eternal kingdom, and get to witness signs of it.

Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?

November 8th, 2010

All of us hear/see the message of the resurrection through a particular set of “lenses” – our own opinion and worldview. Even if you don’t care about the resurrection, that is still a lens – one that believes it doesn’t matter or affect your life. The aim of this message is to challenge some of those lenses.

1 Corinthians 15:1-9 – this is part of a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, addressing some issues they had with the resurrection. Here in Brighton there are many popular lenses.

1. “Scientific” response

  • This says that the resurrection is impossible because people don’t rise from the dead.
  • People with this lens with explain away the resurrection as Chinese whispers, started by fans of Jesus – that his story got greatly exaggerated into legends.
  • But one problem (of many) with this is that scholars will say that it takes generations and generations for legends like these to form, as well as a lack of historical evidence. However, the Gospels are agreed by historical scholars to be excellent historical evidence, and the first one (Mark) was written around 50-60 AD – not anywhere near long enough for a legend to evolve.
  • Paul also talks about how Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time in his letter to the Corinthians – most of whom were still alive at the time of writing the letter, so people could check with those eyewitnesses to validate their story.
  • There are several keys facts that the majority of historical scholars (most non-Christian) will agree on:

i.      Jesus’ death and burial. He was crucified and died on the cross – the spear that was put in his side proved he was biologically dead – and he was buried in a tomb.

ii.     Empty tomb on Easter Sunday

iii.    Appearances of Jesus – many people claiming to have seen him

iv.    Testimony of the Jesus’ disciples – they preached the death and resurrection of Jesus with confidence and most died for their beliefs. Pascal: “I tend to take notice of witnesses who have their throats cut.” 10 out of the 12 disciples ended up being martyrs.

  • Two people firmly did not believe in Jesus – his brother James and the apostle Paul, who went around persecuting the Church. But they ended up turning around and living their whole lives for Jesus, proclaiming his death and resurrection.
  • We have to deal with this information!
  • People conjure up explanations for these facts – e.g. they got the wrong tomb, or the disciples stole the body. But you have to deal with the fact that the disciples died for this – why would they lose their life for a lie? Also the authorities could’ve put an immediate end to Christianity (they sure wanted to) by simply producing the dead body of Jesus – but they couldn’t!
  • Or people will say that Jesus somehow didn’t really die. This is ludicrous – most people didn’t even make it past the flogging stage but died then. How can we honestly think that Jesus survived the flogging and the crucifixion, and somehow burst out of his grave clothes which were tightly wrapped around him, and move aside the heavy stone from the tomb, and beat off the Roman guards?!
  • This leaves us with the only logical explanation – that Jesus really did die for our sins and he rose again to give us new life.
  • So many people have become Christians from studying the evidence of the resurrection in an effort to try and disprove Christianity!
  • If you disbelieve in this evidence then it follows that you can’t believe in a god of any kind at all – at least this is a consistent viewpoint. But if you do believe there is a god or spirituality, how will you account for this?

2. Personal response

  • This viewpoint says “OK maybe it did happen, but how does it affect me and my life?”
  • Interestingly, a lot of people in the “scientific” response camp will fall into this view once they are presented with the solid case of evidence.
  • The resurrection matters so much – it’s the most important thing! Because of these reasons:
  • It means we have to take all the rest of what Jesus said and claimed seriously. They are surely the words of life. Otherwise we shouldn’t pay attention to him. But he does offer us true life! He can be trusted because what he promised came true.We all care about something – justice, right/wrong, the environment, etc. But why care about these things – or anything – if Jesus didn’t rise? Life would be without any meaning or value – it will all just burn up one day. We need to understand that this message was first preached to Jews and Greeks – both who had their own problems with the resurrection, one being that the physical creation is good and that God wants to not just get rid of it, but to restore it. And Jesus is the firstfruits of this new creation – of the physical creation resurrected and made perfect.
    • Christians believe that life matters and know that one day it is going to be restored and made right again. That is why they have been at the forefront of the creation of hospitals and schools – because life matters.
    • Tragically, the single largest cause of deaths among men aged 18-35 in Brighton is suicide. So many people have no meaning in life. But the resurrection gives us HOPE.