Monday, January 30, 2006

What About Those Who Have Never Heard of Jesus: Will They Be Condemned to Hell?

This is a common question that unbelievers have. The Bible says that God is loving (Psalm 103:8, 1 John 4:10) and that He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). If a person has never heard of Jesus, the Bible says that God is going to be absolutely fair with them (Psalm 98:9), and that He will judge them based on what they do know through the testimony of creation and their conscience (Romans 1:20, 2:12-15).

If a person responds favorable to the testimony of his conscience or the the testimony of creation and truly seeks to know God, the Bible says that “God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).” God has many ways of getting the truth about salvation through Christ to those who seek Him. He can send them a missionary (Acts 10), allow them to hear a radio broadcast, give them a dream or vision (Daniel 2, 7), send them an angel (Revelation 14:6) or a Bible (Psalm 119:130), direct them to a website, etc. so that they can know the truth.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Interview with Charlie Campbell on CSN

Tune in Sunday, January 29 at 2:30PM (Pacific Time) and 5:30PM (Eastern time) to CSN online to hear a half hour program regarding the new book, ONE MINUTE ANSWERS TO SKEPTICS' TOP FORTY QUESTIONS. For more on the book click here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Should the Apocrypha be in the Bible?

Evangelicals believe that the Bible is made up of sixty six books. (If you want to read about how the church discovered the Books that God decided were to be included in the Bible, I would encourage you to purchase a copy of Norman Geisler’s book From God to Us, How We Got the Bible). The Catholic Church, in 1546, at an event known as the Council of Trent, added eleven Jewish writings to the Bible known as the “Apocrypha” to Protestants and the “Deuterocanonical books” (lit. “second canon”) to the Catholics.

What is the Apocrypha? The Apocrypha is a collection of fourteen Jewish writings that were written down between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100. Eleven of those fourteen books were accepted by the Catholic Church as God-inspired Scriptures and were placed in the Catholic Bible. If you were to open up a Catholic Bible today you would see books in there with titles like Tobit, Judith, First and Second Maccabees and Baruch. Could these books be God inspired Scripture? Not a chance. There are numerous reasons why the early church and believers down through the centuries have rejected the apocryphal books as authoritative or divinely inspired.

1. Neither Jesus nor the New Testament writers ever quoted from the Apocrypha as Scripture.
2. The Apocrypha contains numerous historical, geographical and chronological errors.
3. The Jews themselves never accepted the Apocrypha as inspired.
4. The Apocrypha contains no predictive prophecy to help substantiate it’s claims.
5. The Apocrypha never claims to be the inspired Word of God.
6. The Apocrypha was rejected by many of the leading early church fathers.
7. Jerome rejected the Apocrypha and left them out of His Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate).
8. The Apocrypha contains numerous non-biblical and heretical doctrines.
9. The Apocrypha was not formally declared to be authoritative and inspired by the Catholic Church until 1546.

For more explanation on each of the nine reasons above see my study on Roman Catholicism here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Museum in Florida Displaying Pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls and 1611 Version of the King James Bible

If you live in or near St. Petersburg, Florida, this will be of special interest to you. CNN reports today that, "The Bible's evolution from ancient Hebrew to modern languages and from clay tablets to printed books is a rich lesson in the history of civilizations, the origins of the written word and the revolution of printing. The story of how the text of the Bible has been written and disseminated over the centuries is recounted in a new exhibition at the Florida International Museum that boasts artifacts as rare and priceless as they come, among them bits of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a fragment of the Gospel of John dating to about 250 A.D., a 1455 Gutenberg Bible and a first edition of the King James version from 1611." Click here to read the rest of the story.

An Argument for God's Existence From Desire

Here is an interesting, thought provoking argument for God's existence:

1. Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
2. But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
3. Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.
4. This something is what people call "God" and "life with God forever."
 

C. S. Lewis, who used this argument often, summarizes it with these words: "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chapter 10, "Hope")

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Fanciful, Deceptive Imagination of Dan Brown

In his popular, yet highly inaccurate novel, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown asserts (through a character named Lee Teabing) that the the deity of Christ was an invention of the church at the Council of Nicea.

Here is an excerpt right from the book, “At this gathering [the Council of Nicea] many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon – the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus….until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal….Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.” A character by the name of Sophie says, “Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?” Teabing says, “A relatively close vote at that.” (p. 233)

Dan Brown suggests here that the deity of Christ was a late invention by the church, it was proposed at the council of Nicea, and that it barely passed.

For the person who is unfamiliar with the Bible, church history, or what happened at the council of Nicea this might easily be believed. What was the council of Nicea? The council at Nicea in modern day Turkey was a gathering of 318 Bishops (church leaders from all over the Roman Empire) in A.D. 325 to discuss doctrines related to the person of Jesus. This meeting was hardly the place where it first proposed that Jesus was actually God, as Brown suggests. That belief was already firmly in place as the popular teaching of the church (e.g., John 20:28, Titus 2:13).

In the fourth century there was a man by the name of Arius (256 -336) who was causing some disputes throughout the Roman Empire as it related to the person of Jesus. Arius reasoned that since Jesus was “begotten,” (Jn. 3:16) He must have had a beginning. His false teachings regarding Jesus became known as Arianism. Arianism denied the eternality of Jesus. Followers of his teaching, known as Arians, held that the divine nature of Christ was similar to God, but not the same. The Council of Nicea, this gathering together of the Bishops, condemned this teaching in 325 A.D. and reaffirmed what the Bible already taught, that Jesus had the very same nature as God.

Was it a close vote? You tell me. There were 318 bishops that were called to the meeting in Nicea. As for the vote that was finally taken, only five out of 318 dissented; and only two of those five refused to sign the resulting resolutions, which reaffirmed the prevailing view of the church: Jesus was, and is, God.

Hardly a close vote, as Brown suggests in his book!!! Can you imagine a basketball team being beaten 316 to 2 and then the losing team telling people afterwards that, "It was a relatively close game”? This is just one of many inaccuracies in The Da Vinci Code. The movie comes out in May, 2006. For a more thorough treatment on these errors, you can purchase an hour long teaching I did on this topics by clicking here (DVD cost: $12.00).

Friday, January 20, 2006

Is There a Contradiction in the Accounts of the Women at Jesus' Tomb?

Someone emailed me yesterday who was troubled by the apparent contradiction in the Gospels regarding the women at Jesus' tomb on the morning of His resurrection.

Mark 16:2 says, "And very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen."

John 20:1 says, "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb."

So
, "Which was it? Did they go to the tomb 'while it was still dark?' or 'when the sun had risen?'"

The difficulty is solved when we realize that the women, whether they had
stayed in Jerusalem or Bethany, had to walk quite some distance to reach the grave. It was dark when they left the place in which they were staying, but when they arrived at the tomb, the sun was beginning to shine. John was referring to their DEPARTURE ("still dark"). Mark was speaking of their ARRIVAL ("sun had risen"). This is one of a couple of plausible solutions. For more help with apparent contradictions in the Bible, I highly recommend everyone own a copy of The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. This book addresses just about every apparent contradiction, or error in the Bible. It is excellent.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why Didn't God Preserve the Original Writings of the Men Who Penned the Bible?

There are thousands of partial and complete handwritten manuscript copies of the Old and New Testament. These manuscripts are on display today in places like the Smithsonian Institute, the Cambridge University Library, the British Library, etc. These manuscripts have allowed scholars to verify that the Bible we have today is the same Bible the early church possessed 2,000 years ago.

To our knowledge though, none of the autographs (the originals) of any of the sixty six books of the Bible actually survive. Someone asked me a while back, "Why didn't God preserve the originals? If we had the originals, then we could know for certain that the Bible hasn't undergone corruption!" Could we know for certain? I don't believe we could. I believe that God has purposely allowed the originals to disappear so that we could actually be more certain that we have a trustworthy copy of the Bible. What are you saying Charlie? Hear me out on this.

Let's imagine the originals were allowed to survive. Let's imagine that they were in someone's possession back in the second century or third century. We'll call him Joe the Scribe. Joe could have changed them! And who would know? Perhaps nobody. But if the original is quickly copied numerous times and these copies are then spread all over the ancient world, and then the original is lost or destroyed, there's no way that Joe could alter the Word of God. Someone might try to sneak an error into a manuscript copy, but the thousands of other copies in circulation would quickly allow the church to cross-check and compare them with one another. The result of the cross-checking? The variants (small slips of the pen, grammatical errors) that anybody tried had tried to sneak into their manuscript would be spotted and the church could come away with great confidence that they have a highly accurate copy of the original.

I believe that God, in His perfect wisdom and foresight, knew the danger of leaving the originals intact and in the possession of any one person or group. Ironically, by allowing the originals to disappear, His Word has actually probably been better preserved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mormon Mind Control

I talked with a woman named Jennifer today who was baptized last week into the Mormon Church. I got to dialog with her about some of the differences between Biblical Christianity (and it's view of the Scriptures, God, Jesus, Man and the Gospel) and what the Mormon Church teaches. She seemed interested to hear. When I told her that I would love to give her a book on Mormonism (Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons by Ron Rhodes) so she could do a little more investigation, she said that she was told not to read any literature by those critical of the Mormon church. Isn't that a convenient and easy way to keep your members? Sadly, that is common within all of the cults.

I explained to Jennifer that this close-minded, uncritical attitude toward faith is exactly the opposite of what the Bible advocates. I told her that 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to "examine all things" and to hold fast to that which is good. I told her of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and how the Bible commends them for daily examining the teachings of the apostle Paul and critically holding them up the light of the Scripture. God wants us to question what we hear and what we are taught. The apostle John said, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 Jn. 4:1)." How do you test the spirit of one who is making some spiritual claim? Isaiah tells us how. He says, "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word [the Word of God, i.e., the Bible], it is because there is no light [truth] in them (Isaiah 8:20). Hold up everything you hear to the inspired, infallible Word of God, and you'll quickly discern truth from error. Jennifer was excited to hear these Scriptures and then gladly accepted the book and some of my notes on Mormonism. Say a prayer for Jennifer tonight.

Was There Really A Flood as Genesis Says?

Click here to read great answers to skeptics' questions regarding the Flood and Noah's ark talked about in Genesis 7.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Need Help Understanding the Problems With Calvinism?

Click here to listen to an hour long teaching by Dr. Norman Geisler entitled, "WHY I'M NOT A FIVE POINT CALVINIST." You will have to register to use the site by providing your email address and creating a password. Then in the media section, type in GEISLER in the "Search for Sermon" and it will pop up for you to listen to. Norman Geisler was formerly the professor of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, is the author of more than sixty books, and is today the President of Southern Evangelical Seminary. For a more in-depth treatment of this issue, I'd encourage you to pick up his book Chosen But Free. To see a collection of tape recorded teachings by Norman Geisler including, "FIVE MORE REASONS I'M NOT A FIVE POINT CALVINIST", and "WAS CALVIN A FIVE POINT CALVINIST?" click here.

The Statement That There Are No Absolute Truths Is Self Defeating

A popular saying or belief amongst skeptics of the Christian faith is, "All truth is relative." With this statement many skeptics seek to justify, in their own minds, that there are no absolute truths, including those truth claims put forth in the Bible. Yet, when the skeptic says, "All truth is relative" they are, perhaps unknowingly, making a claim that they believe is absolutely true. If what they are saying ("All truth is relative.") is absolutely true, then not all things are relative and the statement that "All truth is relative" is false.

Another closely related and popular sentiment in our society today is, "There are no absolute truths." Yet, this statement, "There are no absolute truths" is an absolute statement which the skeptic claims is true. If their statement is true, it is an absolute truth and there "There are no absolute truths" is false. Both statements ("All truth is relative" and "There are no absolute truths") are self defeating. If you have the opportunity to talk to someone who thinks this way, point out to them that the logical end of their beliefs is that they cannot believe anything at all, including that there are no absolute truths. Nothing can be true for the relativist, including relativism.

Actor Stephen Baldwin Standing Up Against Pornography

Actor and Christian, Stephen Baldwin is on a crusade against pornography. Click here to read today's article at WorldNetDaily.com. If you struggle with online temptaion, may I suggest that you download a FREE software called X3 at xxx.church.com that will help do away with the temptation? It documents any questionable websites you visit and mails a report once every two weeks to your wife, friend, accountability partner, or whomever you designate. Knowing that someone is going to see where you've been on the internet is a great deterrent against temptation.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Debating the Age of the Earth

There are of course a few different views regarding the age of the universe. I personally don't think it is all that necessary that Christians debate this issue. Discussing the age of the universe (or the earth) can be an interesting theological discussion, but the more important fact to keep in mind and rally around is not WHEN the universe was created but THAT it was created.

Maybe My Kindergarten Teacher Was Right After All

Ron Carlson, a Christian apologist and author, said, "In grammar school they taught me that a frog turning into a prince was a fairy tale. In the university they taught me that a frog turning into a prince was a fact." Funny how university professors, with a pair of glasses, a beard and a lab jacket can get intelligent people to believe in fairy tales.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Was Jesus' Resurrection an Idea Stolen from Pagan Religions?

More and more lately I am bumping into comments online from skeptics of the Bible who are saying that the authors of the New Testament stole the idea of Jesus' resurrection from ancient pagan sources. This theory is interesting for tickling ears, but goes against the facts. As Dr. Norman Geisler writes, "The first real parallel of a dying and rising god does not appear until A.D. 150, more than a hundred years after the origin of Christianity. So if there was any influence of one on the other, it was the influence of the historical event of the New Testament [resurrection] on mythology, not the reverse. The only known account of a god surviving death that predates Christianity is the Egyptian cult god Osiris. In this myth, Osiris is cut into fourteen pieces, scattered around Egypt, then reassembled and brought back to life by the goddess Isis. However, Osiris does not actually come back to physical life but becomes a member of a shadowy underworld...This is far different than Jesus' resurrection account where he was the gloriously risen Prince of life who was seen by others on earth before his ascension into heaven....even if there are myths about dying and rising gods prior to Christianity, that doesn't mean the New Testaments writers copied from them. The fictional TV show Star Trek preceded the U.S. Space Shuttle program, but that doesn't mean that newspaper reports of space shuttle missions are influenced by Star Trek episodes!" [Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, p. 312]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

C. S. Lewis on Hell

C. S. Lewis said, "I believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside." According to Lewis, there are only two kinds of people--those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "Thy will be done." A person's lostness doesn't stem from any unfairness in God but from their own stubborn rejection of Him. As was the case in Stephen's day, some "are always resisting the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51).

Monday, January 09, 2006

Philosophical Evidence That The Universe Cannot be Eternal, and Therefore Uncaused.

Imagine with me for a couple of minutes that you are holding a copy of THE DA VINCI CODE in your hands which you have been reading. Suppose that before you reached the page that lies before you (let's call it page Z), you had to first read the page before it (page Y). And before you read that page you had to read the one before it (page X), and so on, going all the way back to the first page. Since the book has a first page, your coming to the current page (Z) requires that you first read only a finite number of pages. More pages could be added to the front of the book to lengthen the time it would take for you to get to page Z. (Hopefully Dan Brown won't read this and get any ideas for a prequel.)

Let us suppose that you are a better than average reader and that it takes only one minute to read each page; and let us supppose that you read non stop until you get to page Z. Then, if there are only ten pages to complete before page Z, it will take you ten minutes to get to page Z. How long will it take if you must first read twenty pages? 20 minutes. How about fifty pages? 50 minutes. A hundred pages? A 100 minutes. Ten thousand pages? You can do the math. The important thing to realize is that in every case, no matter how long the book is, there is always only a finite amount of time that it will take to read it. But let's suppose we add an infinity of pages to the front of this book. When will you get to page Z if you must first read all of those pages? The answer is: Never. So if you find yourself reading page Z after completing all the pages before it, you know you've read only a finite number of pages.

The same sort of thing holds for the series of events making up the total history of the universe. Take some event in the actual history of the universe, like your birth. That event can occur only if a finite number of events must occur first. If an infinite number of events must occur before your birth, then you would never have been born. So, either we are halluncinating regarding the fact of your birth, or only a finite number of events occurred prior to your birth. If only a finite number of events occurred before your birth, then the universe has not always existed but had a beginning. Since we are not hallucinating, the universe must have had a beginning. This poses a problem for the atheist. How does something that begins to exist come into being apart from a creator?

(Thank you to R. Douglas Geivett for his helpful insights on this topic in TO EVERYONE AN ANSWER, edited by Francis Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J. P. Moreland, chapter 4, 2004, p. 65)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A New NBC Show Starring Jesus?

Did anybody watch the premiere of the new NBC television show last night, THE BOOK OF DANIEL? If you did, what did you think about it? Is there anything about the show that you think Christians could use as a springboard for conversation with unbelievers? If you haven't heard about it, you can read a short WorldNetDaily.com article on it here.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I Don't Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist

It seems absurd to the highest degree to think that nothing can do something, let alone create, but that is exactly what atheism requires nothing to be able to do. Perhaps this is why God says, in Psalm 14:1, that it is the fool who has said in his heart that there is no God.

If we reject the idea that there must be an uncaused cause, or Creator, of the universe, we are left with having to believe that everything that exists came into being from nothing and by nothing. But this is absurd. Even atheists have problems with the absurdity of this. Atheistic philosopher, J. L. Mackie, from Oxford said, "I myself find it hard to accept the notion of self-creation from nothing, even given unrestricted chance." David Hume, one of the most ardent skeptics of Christianity ever, said, "I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause." Things that arise, or begin to exist (i.e. the universe), must have a cause. Everybody intuitively knows this. Faith in an uncaused, eternal, power outside of the universe, that brought the universe into existence is absolutely reasonable. I don't have enough faith to believe that nothing brought the universe into existence. I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Book Now Available Through Amazon

You can support the ministry of Always Be Ready and be equipped to respond to skeptics' top forty questions about Christianity at the same time by purchasing my new book, ONE MINUTE ANSWERS TO SKEPTICS' TOP FORTY QUESTIONS (Paperback, 138 pages). It is now available to purchase through Amazon.com for just $9.95. Click here to go right to it. If you have already purchased the book, perhaps you might post a quick review at the same site.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Philosophical Evidence for God's Existence

Philosophically, it seems very reasonable to me that a Creator of the universe must exist. Here's why.

1. Something exists.
2. Nothing does not produce something.
3. Something must have always existed.
4. The universe has not always existed.
The background radiation echo, the motion of the galaxies and the second law of thermodynamics all point to the fact that the universe began to exist at a finite point in time.
5. Therefore there must be an eternal power beyond the uinverse that caused the universe to come into existence.

If you were a skeptic, or are a skeptic, how might you seek to refute this line of reasoning? I'd be interested to hear. For more on God's existence see my study here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Put the Burden of Proof Back on the Skeptic

Has a skeptic or unbeliever ever told you something like:

- "Jesus never said He was God."
- "All religions are basically the same."
- "The Bible has undergone corruption and cannot be trusted."
- "The Bible is full of contradictions."
- "Darwinism has disproved God's existence."

Many Christians are left speechless at such words. This need not be the case. Rather than go into defensive mode (i.e. trying to explain the ways that Jesus did claim to be God, or how the manuscript evidence proves the Bible has not undergone corruption), go on the offense. Put the burden of proof back upon the person who is making the assertion. Ask a simple question or two like, "How did you come to that conclusion?" or "Why should I believe that to be the case?" or "What evidence do you have that that is actually true?" Simple questions like these can accomplish three things:
1. They help build relationship. Nobody likes to sit through a one-sided monologue.
2. They help buy you some time to think of how to respond to the issue.
3. They help expose the fact that most skeptics and unbelievers do not really know why they believe what they believe. Once they see that that is the case, they may be more open to hearing what you have to say. For more help answering skeptics genuine questions see my new book, ONE MINUTE ANSWERS TO SKEPTICS' TOP FORTY QUESTIONS. Click here.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Judge Orders Priest to Prove Christ Existed

The TIMES ONLINE reported today that an Italian judge has ordered a priest to stand trial and prove that Jesus ever even existed. This raises a question. If somebody were to ask you to state your reasons why you believe that Jesus existed, what would you say? Think it through, do some research, and share your answer by clicking on the comments link below. Keep your answer to a minute long and we'll post the best answer in about a week.

If you need help with this issue,
Gary Habermas has written a great book on this topic, THE HISTORICAL JESUS: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Click here to buy from Christianbook.com.

Two Mormon Missionaries Shot While Witnessing

CHESAPEAKE - A 21-year-old Mormon missionary died Monday night after he and his partner were shot while going door-to-door in the Deep Creek area. Read story here.

Artifacts With Links to Bible Unearthed

The Washington Times reports today that, "Israeli archaeologists, screening tons of rubble scooped out of this ancient city's sacred Temple Mount, have discovered hundreds of artifacts and coins, as well as jewelry, some with biblical links dating back more than three millennia." Click here to read the rest of the story.