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Historical Reliability of the Gospels Giveaway

We are giving away TWO sets of Craig Blomberg’s Credo Course on the Historical Reliability of the Gospels on DVD.

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Product Description

The Canonical Gospels Attacked and Defended

The Canonical Gospels are constantly under attack. Some claim that they’ve been copied from earlier myths and legends. Others allege they can’t be depended on for historically accurate information. Still others argue that scribed changed the text so that we no longer have what the authors wrote. How should Christians respond to these claims?

Dr. Craig Blomberg is the author of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. In this Credo Course Dr. Blomberg addresses the allegations against the Canonical Gospels one at a time while affirming the historic Christian faith.

dr-craig-blomberg-bw-portrait

This course contains 30 sessions over six DVDs covering all aspects of this topic:

Disc 1

1. Widely Held Myths About Ancient Sources
2. The Formation of the Canon and the Choice of the Synoptic Gospels
3. Books Not Included: The Contents of the Apocryphal and Gnostic Gospels
4. The Text of the New Testament and Especially of the Gospels
5. The Translation of the New Testament and Especially of the Gospels

Disc 2

6. The Authorship and Dating of the Gospels
7. The Reliability of the Oral Tradition (Part 1)
8. The Reliability of the Oral Tradition (Part 2)
9. The Composition of the Synoptic Gospels
10. The Literary Genre of the Gospels

Disc 3

11. Archeology for the Gospels
12. Non-Christian Evidence for Jesus
13. The Apocryphal and Gnostic Gospels Further Evaluated
14. The Quests for the Historical Jesus
15. Why Such Diversity Exists and the Criteria of Authenticity

Disc 4

16. The Most Authentic Parts of the Synoptic Tradition
17. The Resulting Identity of Jesus
18. Problems of Harmonization Among the Synoptics
19. Problems of Harmonization Between the Synoptics and John
20. The Reliability of John (Part 1)

Disc 5

21. The Reliability of John (Part 2)
22. A Fourth Quest for the Historical Jesus
23. The Knowledge of the Jesus Tradition in the Early Epistles (Part 1)
24. The Knowledge of the Jesus Tradition in the Early Epistles (Part 2)
25. The Unique Problem of Miracles (Part 1)

Disc 6

26. The Unique Problem of Miracles (Part 2)
27. The Virginal Conception: Nativity or Naiveté
28. The Resurrection: Fact or Fiction
29. The Jesus We Never Knew
30. Summary and Conclusions

Are Christians Really the Fifth Gospel?

fifth-gospel

There has been a buzz phrase going around the internet about a fifth Gospel. No, this is not coming from a group such as the Jesus Seminar opting for the Gospel of Thomas (that was in the 90s). This is coming from well-meaning evangelical Christians who believe that Christians themselves are the Fifth Gospel.

The idea is that while we have the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in the Bible, the lives of Christians are the fifth Gospel. Our lives, our grace, our kindness, forgiveness, mercy, and good works are a witness to such a degree that we are the final good news. When our lives reflect Christ in a true way, we are his message.

Problems with Calling Christians the Fifth Gospel

We are Still Sinners

Martin Luther said that we are simul justus et peccator “same time just and sinner.” Now, Martin Luther was not inspired, but he was communicating a very biblical idea that while we are covered by the righteousness of Christ and that faith alone (without good work) is what justifies us before God, we are still sinners.

Even the great Apostle Paul, who was inspired at times, wrote about his inability to consistently live the Christian life in Roman 7:19

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Rom 7:19 ESV)

Peter, again, at times inspired, lived for ten years from Acts 2 (when the Holy Spirit came upon him) until Acts 10 with extreme prejudice (a terrible sin) as he would not associate with Gentiles. God came and corrected him, but he still had his problems, it seems, for the rest of his life (see Gal. 11:2-14).

All of us still sin. The Bible says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (John 1:8). Until glory, we will both represent Christ through our good works and misrepresent Christ through our sin. This is a fact of life. Therefore, our status as the fifth Gospel, if this means that we are not still riddled with sin, is not well-put.

We are Still Doubters

Not only do we sin, but our belief is imperfect. We doubt, waiver, believe more one day, and believe less the next. As “believers” we will always hold to our belief, even if by a thread (as Christ will not let us go—John 10:28), but belief is not a black or white thing. Hopefully we are believing more and more every day, but as of today, our belief is not perfect. As those who believe-yet-doubt, we are not the fifth Gospel. I think this creates great authenticity and is very endearing for those who need Christ (at least when we are honest about our imperfect faith), but cannot be said to parallel the Gospels.

I believe, help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

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Don’t Hold Your Hair Back when You Throw Up – Transparency and the Christian

throw-up

About the Title

The title of this post may be self-evident to some of you. Others clicked on this post just to know what I mean. The latter is confused by this cultural phrase “Hold your hair back when you throw up.”  What does it mean? It is simple. When girls have too much alcohol to drink, they may throw up (i.e. vomit). In ideal cases, you have a good friend that will come to your rescue and hold your hair back so you don’t get any puke in your hair. It would not only be gross to look at and smell, it would stain your character as others would see that you cannot hold your liquor. If you don’t have that good friend by your side, you have to hold your hair back yourself. Just remember the two main components: throwing up and hair back.

Well . . . What am I doing here? I am encouraging you not to hold your hair back at all. People need to see the gross stuff, the ugly stuff, and the puke . . . in your life. I am getting ahead of myself.

Who Do You think You Are?

An old adage: “You are not who you think you are. You are who you think other people think you are.” It simply means that who we are is determined by the opinions of others. We are so concerned about what others think about us, that it dominates who we believe we are. This is false.

Who do we want to be? As Christians, what is our goal? How do we want others to view us? Chuck Swindoll used to say (and I quote loosely from an impaired memory), “If you really knew me, you would not listen to me. But don’t worry. If I really knew you, I would not let you in this church!”

Do we know who we are? Or do we keep our real selves a secret known only to us? Often we live lives so guarded that we, ourselves, don’t even know who we are. We are so scared of what people will think of us that we hide everything ugly, everything dishonorable, everything that stinks . . . or just all the puke in our hair. We throw up and remove all evidence that it ever happened. We are too scared to be transparent.

Martin Luther On Transparency

Martin Luther once made a controversial statement: “Be a sinner. Sin boldly.” I love Luther. He did not hold his hair back when vomiting. He let the vomit shine for all to see. Luther was keenly aware of his sin, and of grace. Luther’s comment was meant to provocatively communicate something much deeper. “Sin boldly . . .” the statement begins; it continues, “. . . but believe more boldly.” Luther did not care much for self-righteousness. He did not like masks. He did not like trying to impress people. He was continually attempting to make those who were satisfied with their own works recognize their own utter depravity. “Look in the mirror,” he might have said. “You are a wretch. Let your wretchedness be seen. If you clean yourself up, you may fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need grace.” What a terrible place to be: Self-fooled and graceless. Therefore, when you sin, sin boldly and let it be known (don’t hold your hair back).

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The Ultimate List of Christian Apologetics Podcasts

Check out the latest blog at Credo Courses: The Ultimate List of Christian Apologetics Podcasts

Eventually the Credo Courses blog (done by Ted Paul) will have additional information for each podcasts available (maybe even sortable). This will include things like start date, # of episodes, host(s), a short description, etc.

Check out the blog at Credo Courses and comment to let us know if we missed any of your favorites.

Teaser Shot of The Ultimate List of Christian Apologetics Podcasts

Teaser Shot of The Ultimate List of Christian Apologetics Podcasts

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Did the Early Church Fathers Believe in Sola Scriptura?

Church_Fathers_Order_(left_part)_-_Google_Art_Project

Definition of Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura: the reformed Protestant belief that the Scriptures alone are the final and only infallible authority for the Christian. This does not mean that Scriptures are the only authority (nuda or solo Scriptura), as Protestants believe in the authority of tradition, reason, experience, and emotions to varying degrees (after all, “sola scriptura” itself is an authoritative tradition in Protestantism). It does mean that Scripture trumps all other authorities (it is the norma normans sed non normata Lat. “norm that norms which is not normed”).

Controversy of Sola Scriptura

Sometimes people get the idea that sola Scriptura was a 16th-century invention. While it was definitely articulated a great deal through the controversies during the Reformation, its basic principles can be found deep in church history. Take a look at some of these early church fathers who seemed to believe in the primacy of Scripture:

Related Resource: Six Myths About Sola Scriptura by C. Michael Patton Continue Reading →

Was the Resurrection Story Borrowed from Ancient Myths (Alternative Theory #4)

ancient-myths

What is the Contention?

Contention: The story of Christ’s resurrection was actually borrowed from ancient mythology that predated it by many years. While these myths eventually died out, for some reason the Christ story was able to survive. Why should anyone give special pleading to Christianity? As Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy put it:

“Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, Mithras, and other Pagan Mystery saviors as fables, yet come across essentially the same story told in a Jewish context and believe it to be the biography of a carpenter from Bethlehem?” (The Jesus Mysteries).

For me, this myth about the Resurrection of Christ is the most disturbing. My negative feelings toward it do not come from its viability, but from two things: 1) it provides an incredibly effective sound bite that can quickly bring about severe doubt in believers who have never examined the claim, even though 2) it is about the most easily dismissible fable concerning the Resurrection of Christ.

I ran into a distraught Christian the other day who told me her faith was in a tailspin due to this tale. She simply did not know how to respond, and felt like her faith was losing is grounding. Many “Internet atheists” love this argument. I don’t know whether they have ever looked into it themselves (I have to believe they have not), but it is blindly and irresponsibly replicated in blogs, videos, and atheistic evangelism (yes, there is such a thing!) slogans. Continue Reading →

Was the Resurrection a Result of Mass Hallucinations? (Alternate Resurrection Theory #3)

Was the Resurrection a Result of Mass Hallucinations?

There are two facts one must address to disprove Christianity:

  • The historical evidence in favor of the resurrection
  • The rapid growth of Christianity in a hostile environment

In part one of our series we looked at the idea the Jesus’ body was stolen. In part two we considered the possibility that Jesus didn’t really die at all. Today we’ll consider the idea that the post crucifixion sightings of Jesus were mass hallucinations.

This theory was first popularized by David Strauss[1]. It’s the belief that the Apostles experienced mass hallucinations which explain their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. In their grief, guilt, and shock that Christ was killed, they had psychological experiences (collective or subjective) where they believed they saw something that wasn’t there.

Last Supper with Jesus and The Apostles How Might Have Experienced a Mass Hallucination

The Last Supper – Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock.com

 

According to this theory, we find parallels of this sort of thing all over the world:

  • Many people claim to have seen statues of Mary crying
  • Ghosts sightings
  • Alien abductions

Chris Hallquist, comparing Christ’s resurrection to stories of those who claim to have been abducted by aliens, says this:

The short of it is that there are many people in the US today who, as far as anyone can tell, sincerely believe they have been abducted by space aliens. They aren’t all lone psychiatric patients; there are organizations for these people.[2]

Is this a parallel to the accounts of sighting of Jesus recorded in history? Is it possible that resurrection stories come from followers of Christ who, in their grief, so wanted to believe that Christ rose from the dead, they hallucinated it? Yes, it’s possible. But remember this: possibilities do not amount to probabilities. While the swoon theory is possible, it is certainly not probable.

Related Product: The Resurrection of Jesus by Dr. Gary Habermas

The problems for the mass hallucination theory don’t end there. Let’s look at four flaws in this theory:

1. Hallucinations Don’t Happen in Mass

There are very few psychologists or psychiatrists who believe that such a thing as mass hallucinations exist. If a hallucination is a subjectively experienced phenomenon explicable in terms of brain chemistry, then mass hallucinations aren’t possible.

A mass hallucination would be like people coming to “Coffee and Theology” at Credo House and realizing that we’d all had the same dream the night before. Not just similar dreams, but exactly the same dream. I would consider this a prophetic miracle (if it’s message coincided with previously revealed revelation from God).

The improbability of a mass hallucination (for the naturalist) is so high it would have to be a miracle.  They might as well believe something easier: Christ really did rise from the grave and ascend into heaven. They may still hold to their naturalism, but this would just be a science-of-the-gaps excuse. In other words, there is a scientific explanation; we just don’t know it yet. Think of like this:

  • Resurrection = Miracle
  • Mass Hallucination = Miracle

The mass hallucination theory would be evidence for the supernatural just like Christ’s resurrection. So the mass hallucination argument is not really a naturalistic explanation at all. It’s just swapping one miraculous event for another.

2. Hallucinations Do Not Explain the Empty Tomb

The hallucination theory doesn’t explain the empty tomb of Christ. More specifically, it doesn’t explain why the Apostles didn’t check Jesus’ tomb to see if his body was still there. Forget the Apostles, why didn’t the Romans or the Jewish leaders check the tomb? The fact that they could have checked (thereby nipping Christianity in the bud) and didn’t is telling. Friend and foe alike had an interest in proving what happened to Jesus’ body.

Those who followed Christ would have wanted to verify their hallucinations. To assume they wouldn’t have checked or that they did check but lied about it, is to assume too much about their moral psychological state.

Would Christianity have flourished in such a hostile environment if it could be so easily falsified? Imagine yourself in such a situation. You know that if you become a Christian you’ll face harsh persecution, maybe death. Before you take that step you’d check to make sure the central claim of the movement is true. If Jesus body was still in the tomb the case for Christianity doesn’t even get off the ground.

3. Parallel Hallucinations Are Not So Parallel

What about the weeping Mary statues that have been reported all over the world? Don’t many people witness them? Are we to believe that they are true or mass hallucinations? Again, they cannot be mass hallucinations. A mass hallucination would be a miracle greater than a mere crying statue. So what are they? There are a few options:

  • Hoaxes
  • Illusions
  • Point-of-sight references
  • Psychologically expected occurrences
  • True

Most of the crying statues, when investigated at any level, turn out to be hoaxes. For example, in 1995, there was a Madonna statue that appeared to be weeping blood in Civitavecchia, Italy. 60 people witnessed this. The blood was tested and shown to be male blood[3]. The statue owner refused to undergo a DNA test to see if it was his blood. The Roman Catholic Church has only approved one of these stories as legitimate. And the RCC has more reason than most for wanting these stories to be true.

If they aren’t hoaxes, than illusions and point-of-sight perspectives are not so hard to accept, especially if you’re expecting to see something. People often go to these statues hoping and expecting that they’ll see something. A tear in the eye of a statue is pretty obscure. It may be that people are simply seeing what they want to see. They see something that looks like a tear, declare that is is a tear, and go home happy.

As for alien abductions, once again, unless there are many people seeing the exact same thing, at the same time, in the same place (and I know of none that claim to be, but am open to correction), this isn’t really a parallel too much of the Gospel narrative on the resurrection. These would be more like those who have died and said they saw heaven. They all give somewhat similar accounts based on, what seems to be, cultural conditioning on what they believe heaven is supposed to be like.

And further unlike the crying statues and near-death visions of heaven (and here is where we can throw in seeing ghosts)  the Apostles had no cultural or psychological expectations to hallucinate Christ’s resurrection. They did not expect him to raise. And with Paul and James it goes even further. They did not expect him to raise and did not want him to. In these cases, hallucinations may come on an individual level when one desires to see, say, a dead loved one so bad due to grief. Some postulate that the guilt of what they did to Christ caused them to see visions of him. But, again, at least with Paul and James, we have no reason to believe they felt guilt for what happened. They seemed perfectly content in their antagonism toward Christ.

Now, of course, while I am very skeptical of alien abductions and crying statues, I don’t dismiss them out of hand. Things that don’t fit my worldview are not completely dictated by my worldview. Reason and evidence should create our worldview, not the other way around.

4. This Argument Could Be Made for Any Historic Event

If the mass hallucination theory is adopted, what’s to stop us from applying this to any and every historical event that we don’t agree with or like? Nothing. In fact, we could apply it to reality itself vis-a-vie the Matrix and throw it all out the window. Who is to say that 9/11 was not a mass hallucination? Who is to say that the Holocaust was not a mass hallucination? Who is to say that the landing on the moon was not a mass hallucination?   This wouldn’t be scholarly of us. It’s turning a possibility into a probability.

In my opinion, the resurrection of Christ is not best explained by mass (or individual) hallucination. It is trading one miracle with substantial evidence to support it for a lesser miracle with no evidence to support it.

Footnotes

Jesus Didn’t Die from Crucifixion (The Swoon Theory)(Alternate Resurrection Theory #2)

Jesus Didn’t Die from Crucifixion

It’s difficult to deal with alternate theories on the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. There are plenty of them out there. That’s not the hard part. It’s just hard to choose the ones that pose the most legitimate challenge.

Further Reading: Was Jesus’ Body Stolen (Alternate Resurrection Theory #1)

Before developing an alternative view of Christ’s death and resurrection the standard view must be rejected. After all, why go searching for an alternative to a perfectly good explanation? One must reject the possibility of God raising a person from the dead before proposing a different theory. Why? Because none of the alternatives have better historical or rational support. So if your alternative theory isn’t going to win on its own merits you must do away with the original story out-of-hand so there’s nothing to be compared to.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Empty Tomb of Jesus with an Angel, Women Visitors, and Roman Soldiers.

The second alternative theory I want to talk about is the “Swoon Theory.” “Swoon” means to faint. This theory says that Christ never really died at all. The swoon theory was promoted by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in their 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Dan Brown famously used this book in connection with his best-seller The Da Vinci Code. This theory is popular among Muslims who traditionally reject Christ’s death on the cross. The swoon theory was first proposed by H. E. G. Paulus in The Life of Jesus (1828).

Explanation of the Swoon Theory

Here’s the swoon theory in a nutshell:

  1. Jesus never really died on the cross. Either they thought he was dead and took him down, or they intentionally took him down before he died.
  2. He was placed in the tomb where he remained for a couple days regaining his strength.
  3. He presented himself alive to many people including the Apostles.
  4. Those who saw him post-crucifixion thought he’d risen from the dead and spread this story, which formed the basis for Christianity.

There are at least four good reason to reject the swoon theory.

PRODUCT: Dr. Gary Habermas covers the swoon theory in session twelve of his 30-session courses on The Resurrection of Jesus.

1. The Nature of Crucifixion

The Roman governor Pontius Pilate ordered Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus’ executioners weren’t an inexperienced lynch mob. They were highly trained and experienced soldiers who regularly crucified people. employed what was probably the most common form of capital punishment of the day. Crucified men generally died from asphyxiation due to collapsed lungs. But even if they didn’t the executioners had a fail-safe to guarantee death. They would break their legs. With broken legs there was no way for the victims to push themselves up to breathe.

Though one could live days on a cross without dying, once the legs were broken, death came very quickly. Additionally, if there was any uncertainty as to whether the man had died, there was another way to ensure his death. They would spear the victim in the chest (which was done to Christ). To claim that Christ was still alive after all this is to say that:

  • The Roman executioners were incompetent in their job. This idea has no extra biblical historical support. The Romans were widely believed to have perfected the “art” of crucifixion)
  • Mary and Josephus (along with all those involved in the burial) were wrong in their belief that Christ was dead.

These two hurdles make it difficult to believe the swoon theory with intellectual integrity.

2. The Glory of the Resurrection

Let us assume that Christ did somehow survive the crucifixion. Although it’s highly implausible it’s not impossible. This is just the first of at least four challenges to the swoon theory.

Christ, a man whom the Romans just attempted to crucify, would have been clinging to life,. He would have been wrapped in burial cloths (complete with one hundred pounds of burial spices) and placed in a tomb. A heavy rock was rolled over the opening sealing off the tomb. If that wasn’t enough the Roman’s placed guards outside to keep watch.

Not only do we have to believe that Christ survived crucifixion but he somehow:

  • Didn’t die from blood loss and infection
  • Recovered his strength without medical attention, food, water, etc.
  • Was strong enough to move a stone meant to seal his tomb
  • Evaded the Roman guards outside
  • Been healthy enough to pass off as having resurrected in a glorified body

Doesn’t it seem more likely that he would have been rushed to the hospital immediately, shrieking in pain the whole way? Surely, he would have died a few days later of infection and blood loss. It’s easier to believe the God raised Jesus from the dead than this string of events.

Even David Strauss, who did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, rejected the swoon theory in his A New Life of Jesus (1879):

It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulcher, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given to his disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, and impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry […] Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which he had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship. (1.412)

3. The Ascension Into Heaven

Let us suppose that Jesus didn’t die and that somehow his wounds were not fatal. Let us further suppose that he convinced the Apostles that he was the Messiah and the first fruits of the resurrection. Even if we grant both of these, we still have to reckon with the ascension of Jesus. The Apostles’ complete claimed that Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9–11). The swoon theory (as a simpler alternative) isn’t doing so well. Even if it allows us to skirt the resurrection we still have to develop an explanation for the ascension.

4. The Lack of Evidence

This is may be the most important point we can make: there is no evidence to support the swoon theory. Nothing in Scripture or other contemporary writings support the swoon theory. It would take more faith to believe the swoon theory than to believe in the resurrection. It seems like those who want to avoid the resurrection will buy into just about anything.