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The Bible – Truth or Fiction?

Now, this morning I’m going to talk about an issue that I think is critical. I think it’s as important of a topic that I’ll talk about. And, in September, we’ll have a follow-up on this particular issue.

And, let me just kind of introduce this by saying back around 1983 or 1984, I came to the realization that I had committed my life to a religious faith that had, as its source, a book, the Bible. A book that claimed, in fact, to be God’s divinely inspired revelation to mankind. And, though I had discovered personally that it was experientially true, I had to admit that the primary reason I believe that the Bible was God’s word is that I’d been told that all my life. Maybe you’ve experienced that as well. You’ve never questioned it. You just said the Bible is God’s word. That’s what I’ve been told. I believe it. But for me personally, I had to, I needed to go deeper. I needed more of an intellectual foundation on why Christians throughout the centuries have staked so much, even their lives, on the words from a book that claimed to be God’s word. And, that’s the basis of this message this morning. And, I will tell you it is a work in progress because I’m continually refining it as I read, as I study. In fact, this morning, I’m going to share some things I’ve never shared before as it relates to this.

And, before I start, I want to share with you an illustration that of what I want to get out of this message this morning. I’ve reached into my pocket and got something out of my hand. I’m going to use my father, as he’s the only one in this room that’s known me all my life. And, I’ll use him as an example. If I said, “Dad,” who’s sitting right here.  If I said, “What do I have in my hand?” And, he said, “Well, about a quarter.” I said, “Are you sure?” He said, “Well, I mean, logically, it could be a quarter.” What if I said, “Would you be willing to wager on it?” And, let’s assume he says, “Well, I bet you a hundred dollars it’s a quarter.”

Now, if you really think about it, my father would be exercising what is called blind faith. He has no idea what’s in my hand; he would be guessing. In fact, he would be quite foolish to wager a hundred dollars. On the other hand, if I said, “Dad, in my hand, I have a 1921 silver dollar, decent condition.” If I told him that, then we’d be looking at a completely different situation. Assuming that my father thinks I’m trustworthy, and I hope that he thinks I am. And, also the fact that I know what’s in my hand, it’s a completely different situation. He can place confidence. He can even say, “Yeah, I will bet a hundred dollars,” because he believes me. He believes I’m trustworthy. And, he knows that I know what’s in my hand. That is what faith is. He hasn’t seen it, but he believes it because of my testimony, the trustworthiness of my testimony.

Now, if I open my hand and hand him the silver dollar, and he can look at it and feel it and touch it and see what it is. At that point, faith is no longer needed. At that point, he has true objective knowledge. He knows what it is.

Some people ask regularly. Maybe you’re thinking this since we’re talking about the Bible, “Well, why doesn’t God give us that open hand? Why don’t we get to hear from Him from heaven so that we have that objective knowledge and don’t have to live by faith?” Well, I’m going to cover that in just a few minutes. But the point that I wanted to make in regard to this illustration is that my father’s act of faith is based on my trustworthiness and the position that I am in to know what is true about what’s in my hand. He can’t see it, but he believes it.

And, if you think about it, Christianity is based on the trustworthiness of the Bible and those who wrote the Bible. And, so the question that I want to ask this morning is very important, is; is the Bible trustworthy? Is it true? Is there a good reason to believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God, or do Christians live with blind faith? That’s a legitimate question to ask.

Now, I want to start by asking you to think through a couple of issues with me. And, I want to start with one basic presupposition. And, that one basic presupposition is this; there exists a personal, rational, all powerful God. Now that shouldn’t be too hard for you to believe because most of America are theists. However, if that’s not your perspective, I would ask you to still make the assumption. Suppose there is a personal rational, all powerful God. Because what I’m getting ready to do is to make some observations that should be true if the Bible is what it claims to be.

And, the first two are real quick, they’re very basic. You may think, why did I even bring these up, but I think they’re important. I’m going to ask two very simple questions. I want you to think about them because they are important. Would you not agree that if God chose to objectively communicate with us, His creatures, I’m not saying He has. But let’s say this all-powerful God makes the decision, I want to communicate with My people. Don’t you think He would choose to do so in a way that is free from error? In other words, don’t you think He would want to be clearly understood?

I think the answer is, of course. What rational being wants to be misunderstood? You’re a parent. So many of you are parents. The last thing you want as you communicate with your kids is to be misunderstood. You want them to understand your love, your thoughts, your desires for them. So, I think if God chose to communicate with us, and I’m not saying He has. But if He did, He would do so in a way that we could understand Him.

 The second point and the question that I would ask is this; do you think this all-powerful God is capable?  Not that He’s done it, is He capable of having special appointed men write out His words for Him so that the world would have God’s divinely inspired revelation as a permanent record? As Peter, in fact, described this process, its men moved by the Holy Spirit, spoken from God. All I’m asking you is this; is He capable? If He’s all-powerful, He is certainly capable.

Now, this next point, I think is critical. And, I want to ask you to give some thought to it. Be a little creative here, because I’m going to ask you a question. I’m not looking for any hands. But if you were God, you were this all powerful God, and you wanted and desired to communicate your love, your words, your thoughts, to all these people, these finite human beings,  how would you do it? How would you do it? If you think through this, there are really two options.

The first option is the audible spoken word, just like I’m doing this morning, speaking directly to you where you hear my voice. The second option, and I am discounting audio and video because that’s only been with us a small part of human history, is the written, or what I would call the recorded word, where you have more of a permanent record to refer to. Those are your two options.

Now, some people would automatically say, “Well, you know, God communicates and reveals Himself to us through all types of things, like creation. You see His handiwork everywhere.” And, that’s true, but that’s more subjective. We’re talking about where He objectively shares with us His thoughts, His will for our lives. And, you really are left with two options. And, let’s consider both of them.

The first option, the written recorded record, which I, by the way, believe is the most logical. It’s the most practical. And, in the end, ultimately, it is the most loving way for God to approach us. Think about this: first and foremost, communication is most clearly understood when it’s written down. When you really want to say something clearly, where it’s completely unambiguous, you write it down. The best example of this is politics. When the President wants to say something that the press is not going to twist, or his opponents are not going to twist, they issue a very clear written statement. And, one the things that I remember that was kind of comical was reading about how back when President Reagan was President, all of his advisors, they hated the live press conference. He always made cracks and whatever. And, they were always fearful that he would say something that would be misunderstood, would show up on the evening news, and they’d have to figure a way to deal with it with the press. And, therefore, the written statement is always preferred because it’s very clearly understood.

Second thought. All law and doctrine has got to be objective and verifiable. You’ve got to be able to refer to it. You ask any lawyer, and we seem to have attracted a number of them this morning. You ask any lawyer, what would life be like for you if our laws and our court decisions were never recorded? I mean, that’s almost a ludicrous thought. We couldn’t have our legal system; we’d have an anarchy. We couldn’t have a Republic. The only thing that would work is a dictator who makes the law.

And, I was thinking about the, a woman in Houston, I haven’t really kept up with it, who drowned her six children. She said she heard voices to tell her to do it. She said, “God was telling me to do it. “That’s why you need something where you can go and verify this is what God says about human life and murder.

And, the third and probably most important point about the written recorded word is this: Christianity is a historical faith. It is centered, and I would underscore the word centered, around a historical event: the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Peter Moore has made a very astute statement when he said, “Christianity, of the four major world religions, is the only religion to make spiritual truth depend on historical events.” And, even the Apostle Paul said, “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, if that is not a historical fact, then all Christians are fools.”

And, since history is a knowledge of the past, based on testimony, anything historical, if it’s going to be of value to us, has got to be recorded. It has to be written down so we can go back and refer to it.

Now, let’s look at what the other option, the option of God speaking directly to us, being very direct with us. Well, it’s interesting to note that He has done that. He’s done that in the Old Testament. He did that with His people. And, it’s interesting to see how they responded to it.

Philip Yancey, in his book, Disappointment with God, observed that “God’s open demonstration of power in the Old Testament did not encourage spiritual development.” Isn’t that interesting. “In fact, the Israelites in the desert had no native faith at all. God’s clear presence sucked away their freedom, making every choice that confronted them a matter of obedience and not faith.” As Yancey noted, “God did not play hide and seek with the Israelites. They had every proof of His existence you could ask for. But astonishingly, and Yancey says, and I could hardly believe this. Even as I read it, “God’s directness seemed to produce the very opposite of the desired effect. The Israelites responded, not with worship and love, but with fear and open rebellion. God’s visible presence did nothing to improve lasting faith.

If you think about it, as a parent, think about this as a parent. A number of you have children off at college. I was talking to a guy right before we met, who just took his daughter, dropped her off at school for the first time, how difficult it is. Just imagine this. Let’s say a young man or young woman was going… a young man, let’s say, was going off to college. And, right before leaving his father says, “Son, I’ve got good news for you. I’m going to college with you. I’m going to be your roommate. I’m going to make sure you go to class. We’ll be together on the weekends. It’s going to be great. And, you will end up having a great college experience because you’ll always do what is right. And, I’m gonna make sure of it.”

 If you think about it as a parent, you’d never do that. Even though I know you’d probably like to know what they’re doing. But when they reach a point, you’ve got to let them go. Freedom. You’ve got to give them their freedom because you understand the importance of love and freedom. Without freedom. there would be no relationship with your child. At some point, they would rebel, and they would hate you.

Listen to this statement. It’s so important to understand. God has chosen to surrender His greatest advantage, the power to compel belief. He’s given that up. He has chosen not to overwhelm us or to enslave us with His mighty and awesome power. He doesn’t force himself on us. And, particularly on those who aren’t willing to follow Him or believe Him. He doesn’t force himself. Instead, what He’s done, He’s offered the world His love and the freedom to accept that love or to reject it.

And, the best illustration I’ve ever seen that bears out this point is one by Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher. And, he shares the story of a young King who ruled over this mighty kingdom. He was young. He didn’t have a wife. He didn’t have a queen. And, he has this magnificent palace that overlooks the marketplace. And, one day as he’s overlooking the marketplace, he sees this beautiful young peasant come walking in, and he’s just taken by her beauty and her kindness and her joy. And, every day he finds himself drawn to the marketplace to see if she’s going to show up. And, one day he comes to the realization that he’s fallen in love with this girl he doesn’t even know he’s watching. And, at that point, he has the option. He realizes, “I have an option because of my authority, because of the power I have as the King, I can make her, force her to become my wife and be my queen. But he also realized that you can’t force love. You can’t make somebody love you. And so what he did was he took off his crown. He took off his royal clothes and he dressed as a peasant. And, he set out to win her love because he realized that’s the only way true love can exist. It has to be chosen. You’ve got to be drawn to the person you love. And, that’s what Christianity is all about.

And, that’s what Jesus, in fact, has done. He came down and became one of us. And, it says He draws men to Himself, not by force, but by love.  Because He says, “When I am lifted up on the Cross,” He says, “that’s how I will draw people to Myself.” The greatest act of love dying on a cross.

Now, a fourth point I want to make, and we could spend a lot of time on this. Since time is limited, I’m just going to limit my examples to maybe two or three. But I want you to think about this. If God has not given us His words, if He has not presented to us His moral law, then how can we have absolutes to live by? In other words, how can we have morality? What do we base it on? This is a real, huge issue in our culture and in our land today.

Let me give you a couple of examples. I don’t know how many of you may have seen it, it was a month or two, maybe a couple of months after September 11th. And, there was an article in Newsweek Magazine from a 19-year-old girl by the name of Alison Hornstein, who went to Yale. She talks about the fact that she and all of her friends and her classmates have been very well-educated in a secular sense, and never really thought or talked much about absolutes, never condemning anybody. And, she said, “The day after those planes flew into the World Trade Center,” and she doesn’t identify the professor of the class or anybody. She says, “The next day, a professor in my class said those men who flew those planes into the World Trade Center were freedom fighters. They were freedom fighters from a distant land fighting for their way of life back at home. They’re just like American soldiers in World War II, who were fighting in a distant land, fighting for their way of life.” And, she said she was stunned. Everybody in the class was going, “You know, he’s right. He’s right.”  She said, “He never, nobody ever condemned the fact that 3,000 innocent people were killed when those planes flew into the Trade Center.” And, she said, “I was horrified. For the first time, I realized there were absolutes. There are certain things that were absolutely wrong.” In fact, the title of the article was, It’s Time to Address the Question of What is an Absolute Wrong. And I believe she’s absolutely right. But the problem is, and the thing that she didn’t address is this; If you’re going to have an absolute moral law, you have to have an absolute moral lawgiver. Otherwise, it’s just everybody’s opinion.

And I don’t want to be too crass about this, but just to kind of see where we’ve pushed the envelope, there was an article in The Wall Street Journal a couple of months ago. It was entitled Pedophilia for Progressives. It says, “The newest hero to enter the pantheon of free speech warriors in our time is University of Missouri’s Harris Mirkin, author of an article intended to undo our culture’s delusion that there’s something intimately wrong with adults engaging in sex with children.” He says, “It is Dr. Mirkin’s view that the panic over pedophilia is much like the way people once viewed female sexuality and homosexuality. Pedophilia,” he notes, “has been permissible or obligatory in some cultures in certain periods of history.”

So, it must be okay. In fact, I have an article back in my office from Time Magazine called Cradle to Grave Intimacy, and they advocate the same thing. A bunch of sexologists say children should have the right to engage in sexual behavior with adults.

Now, you know, if we have no moral imperatives from God on our sexuality, then how can they be wrong? I mean, it’s their opinion. We might have a different opinion, but how do you say it’s wrong?

Let me give you the best example I can think of to tie this together. Probably the person that we would consider the most evil person to ever live, or at least in the last 500 years, is Adolf Hitler. What’s interesting to know about Hitler, he was a student of Frederick Nietzsche who coined the phrase, “God is dead.”  Hitler, clearly an atheist, but clearly believed in the laws of nature, which are ruled by the survival of the fittest natural selection. And, he intended to carry it out. He intended to create a superman; what Nietzsche called the superman: The Arian race. A bunch of blonde-haired, blue-eyed people. And, he believed that that was a good and right thing. It’s the law of nature. And, he intended to carry it out. He said, “but to do it, you’ve got to eliminate inferior races, starting with the Jewish people.” And, that’s how he justified the Holocaust.

And, after the Nazis were defeated, this very issue came up in the Nuremberg Trials, where the Nazis were being tried. Let me read this to you. “At the Nuremberg trials, questions arose over what laws should be used to judge the Nazis before the trials began, the Allies had prepared a charter tribunal consisting of the rules of procedure, the rules of evidence, and the laws under which the Nazis would be prosecuted. The Nazi defendants claimed that they were being tried by ex post facto laws, and several authorities in international law have criticized the Allied judges for the same reasons. The Nazis on trial logically appealed to the fact that they consistently follow the mandates of their country and government, and that their actions were in obedience to the laws in effect at that time. They argue that they could not be convicted simply because their behavior deviated from the contrary value system of their conquerors. But the chief counsel for the United States at the Nuremberg trials, Robert Jackson, appealed to permanent transcultural values. He appealed to a law beyond the law, a universal law, a transcendent law. He said that a system of ethics must point beyond itself. It has to be transcendental. It has to be from God.  And, its basis cannot rest within the finite world. Otherwise, how could one in good faith say the Nazis were wrong in their actions?”

I think the novelist Dostoevsky was absolutely correct when he said, “If there is no God, then all things in life are permissible.” In other words, if there is no God, if there is no moral law handed down to us by Him, then people should do what is right in their own eyes.

So that’s the fourth point I would make. If there is no law from God, if there is no moral imperative, that’s been handed down to us, from Him, then what are we left with?

Now, I want to make one other point and then I’m gonna move in a completely different direction. But this is important, too. And, I think, fascinating. If the Bible is true, it should be consistent with secular history and archeology. They shouldn’t be contradictory.

Of course, as you know, archeology is a study of the past as revealed by the relics left by ancient civilizations. Now, I don’t have a lot of time here because I have a slew of historians and archeologists that I could read from, But I want to choose four real briefly. And, these are four archeologists who spent most of their time focusing on Middle East archeology, what took place in the area of Palestine. And, the first guy is a Jewish archeologist by the name of Nelson Glueck, very renowned. He says, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.” He continued, “The almost incredibly accurate historical memory of the Bible is particularly so when it is fortified by archeological fact.”

There’s a guy by the name of F F Bruce, a very distinguished scholar at Manchester University in England. Written a large number of books, one I’ve just read through called The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? He updates them about every five years, this book. This is what he says after years of study.  “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament. It may be legitimate to say that archeology has confirmed the New Testament record.”

And, then the individual that probably would be considered the greatest Biblical archeologist of the last century, maybe ever, is a guy by the name of Dr. William F Albright. He was an archeologist and professor at John Hopkins. H authored more than 800 publications on Biblical archeology. He had numerous expeditions to the Middle East. And, he made it clear early in his life, he said, “I’m no friend to Christianity, but I’m not hostile towards it.  I’m very unbiased.”

In fact, what’s interesting, I gave this same talk about 10 years ago. And, afterwards a young lady came up and said, “Dr. Albright, ironically was my uncle.” And, she said, “I don’t know if you know it, but he just recently died.” And, she said there was a huge writeup on his life in Time Magazine. The only reason I mentioned that is this guy was good. He was good at what he did. He was famous. Listen to his comment.

He says, “The excessive skepticism shown towards the Bible by important historical schools of the 18th and 19th centuries has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”

Now, the last guy that I want to mention, I find to be quite fascinating. He lived just before Albright, probably just as famous. His name is Sir William Ramsey. Sir William Ramsey was an atheist. His parents were wealthy atheists. And, it says, “He received his doctorate from Oxford and committed his entire life to archeology, and was determined to undermine the validity of the Bible. And, he set out for the Holy Land with the hope of discrediting the Book of Acts and completely discrediting Luke.” And, that’s important because Luke wrote 24 chapters in the Book of Luke and 28 chapters in the Book of Acts: 52 chapters in the New Testament, almost 25 percent of the New Testament. He said, “I’m going to focus on Luke. If I can discredit him, I can discredit the entire Christian faith.”

“But after years of study, Ramsey declared that Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, was exact, down to the most minute details. In his diggings and through his study, Ramsey uncovered hundreds of artifacts, which confirmed the historicity of the New Testament record until finally, in one of his books, he revealed that he’d become a Christian, shocking the archeological community.” And, this was his comment. After 30 years of focusing and studying on Luke, he says,

“Luke is a historian.” This is a quote. “Luke is a historian of the first rank. Not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of all historians.”

Now, I’m going to have to skip some of this because I’ll make one comment. Some of you may ask the question, why aren’t there more people that write about Jesus outside of the Bible?

It’s important to know that Jesus, obviously, did not spend any time in Athens, Greece, where all the intellectuals were. He lived His life in the armpit of the Roman Empire, which was Palestine. It was an agrarian society. Most of the people couldn’t read or write. You can go any of the local libraries today, and there are a number of historians that lived at His time. Cornelius Tacitus is considered the greatest historian in the Roman Empire, wrote about Jesus. And, then didn’t necessarily say a lot, but refers to Him. Flavius Josephus had a great quote. I was going to quote you. I just don’t have time. Tertulias, Phallus, Flagon, and Justin Martyr. But there are a lot of historians that did write about Him. In fact, you can go to the library today. But the problem is they are not many people that are interested in going and reading what Justin Martyr has to say about Jesus, but it’s there. It’s there.

Let’s go in a different direction. And, I’m gonna close this up. Take about another 15 minutes.

There are two things that need to be done if you’re going to further validate the claim that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God. There are two issues that have to be dealt with. The first is this; how do we know the Bible has not been altered over time?

Until the invention of the printing press, everything that we wrote down was done on parchment manuscript, and they’re hard to preserve unless they’re kept airtight. So, how do we know it wasn’t embellished over time? How do know the Bible hasn’t been embellished?

Well, we’re real fortunate today because back in 1948, a shepherd boy encountered a cave as he was throwing rocks and discovered what we now have today called the Dead Sea Scrolls. And, I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but as they were discovered, this photographer by the name of John Trimmer, took some of the manuscripts and took photographs of them, and sent them to William Albright. Listen to what he said.

He said, “These scrolls are the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times. What an absolutely incredible find. There can happily not be the slightest doubt in the world about the genuineness of the manuscript. He went on to date the scrolls at approximately 100 BC. And, this is what’s so incredible about the discovery: the manner in which it verified the accuracy of the Scriptures that have been passed down to us. The exactness, for instance, of the Book of Isaiah, they call it the Isaiah Scroll, in comparison with what we have today demonstrates the unusual accuracy of those who copied the scrolls throughout the centuries.”

And, in all of my readings, one of the things that struck me is these archeologists and historians, the way they validate the accuracy of classical literature is they use what they call a bibliographical test. Let me just take a second to explain this. They look at two criteria to determine if a writing is accurate. They look at how many manuscripts do we have in museums today. The more the number of manuscripts they consider the work to be more accurate, I guess, because there’s more to examine.

The second is they look at the time between the writing of the original work of the author. For instance, let’s say I wrote something in 100 AD, and then they ask the question, “What is the date of the oldest manuscript we have in the museum today?” Let’s say it’s 500 ID. There’s a 400 year gap between when I originally wrote it and what we have in a museum today. And, they say the shorter that gap, the more accurate the writing is considered.

Take, for example, he says, Plato. Plato wrote The Republic in 350 BC. The oldest copy we have today is 980. There’s a 1,250-year gap. And, you know, how many manuscripts we have? Seven.

I have a good buddy that teaches up at the University of the South, who teaches political philosophy. And, he focuses on Plato. He would tell you nobody ever questions whether Plato wrote The Republic. Nobody ever questions that what we read today is what he wrote over 2000 years ago.

Probably the most often read work in ancient literature is Homer’s Iliad. I mean, the Greeks used to memorize this. He wrote it in 800 BC. We have a copy that was copied in 400 BC. So, you have a 400-year gap.  And, we have 643 manuscripts of The Iliad. The New Testament; Let’s just take The New Testament. Written between 40 to 75 AD. There are some questions because you have different authors. The oldest copy we have today is a 125, AD. So, there’s a 65 – 85 year gap. We have 5,400 Greek manuscripts of The New Testament and over 8,000, ancient Latin manuscripts, which has led the director of the British Museum Sir Frederic Kenyon to admit,

“In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short is in that of The New Testament. The interval, then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be, in fact, negligible. And, the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures had come down to us substantially as they were written, has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the Books of The New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”

Let’s assume that that, that the Bible that we read today has been translated from Hebrew and Greek, and Latin into English. Let’s say it’s accurate. It’s accurate with the originals. It leaves us with the last issue and the most important issue. And that is this.  Let’s say it is historically accurate. Let’s say it hasn’t changed over time. How do we know that the original manuscripts are truly God’s words written by men who have been supernaturally inspired? How do we know that?

That’s a good question. And there’s a simple answer. And this is my answer: because Jesus said it was.

Listen to this.

Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of God, said that the Holy Scripture, though written by men, was God’s own words. He would say, “God has spoken. God has said.” And, He would quote Deuteronomy. He’d quote Psalms. He would quote Isaiah. He would quote Malachi. In fact, he comes and says, “ I did not come to make any changes in The Old Testament.” He said,” I did come to fulfill it.”

You know, if there are a bunch of errors in The Old Testament, he would have said, “Guys, we’ve got to make some changes here.” He never says that, but He quotes it all the time and says, “This is God’s word.”

After the resurrection, before His final departure, He appointed special men: Apostles. Once the Apostles died, it was never passed down. Apostleship could not be passed down. He promised to lead the Apostles by the Holy Spirit to guide them into the truth and bring to remember all they had seen and heard. And, they went right out and approved The New Testament record. So, every book in The New Testament had to have that apostolic authority. So, in effect, Jesus is confirming that the written word, The Bible, in the past and in the future, is God’s primary method of communicating His thoughts to mankind.

 Therefore, the issue is this; was Jesus God in the flesh? Was he God in the flesh? And if He was not, who was He?

And, this is a huge issue. It’s huge to the point that Larry King of Larry King Live said, “Yeah, Jesus was God in the flesh. If He came into the world as God, it is the defining moment in all of history.” Of course, he says, if. I don’t know where he stands on that, but he’s made a good observation. If that has happened, it is the defining moment in all of history.

Let me tell you why else it’s important. Christianity says Jesus was the Son of God. The Jewish community says He was not. The Islamic community says He was not. And they say He was a great prophet. The Buddhist community says He’s not.  If you don’t know this, the Buddhist don’t believe in God. It’s an atheistic release religion. Now, the Hindus say, “Yeah, He’s God, but He’s one of the millions of gods that exist in the Pantheon.”

So, who was He? Who was He? Is the evidence compelling to believe that He was the Son of God? That’s what I’m going to cover on September the 27th, when we meet again. And, I’ll hope you’ll be there for that.

Let me give you my conclusion. You know, in researching all of this a thought struck me that was very powerful to me. Because in my research, a number of the sources that I use were men who were just like William Ramsey. I was kind of surprised. They’re men just like William Ramsay, who set out to demolish the foundations of the Christian faith, and in the process, came to the conclusion that that would set out to debunk was in fact, true.

Let me give you an example, Frank Morison. This is a book I’ll use next month. This guy was a lawyer and journalist. Lived in England. Believed that the resurrection of Christ was a fairy tale. He set out to write a book, focusing on the fact that the resurrection of Christ was a myth. And, he came to the conclusion that Jesus did rise from the dead. Let me read to you the preface, just two sentences, really powerful. He says,

 “This book is a confession. It’s called, Who Moved the Stone. This book is a confession. The inner story of a man who originally set out to write one kind of book and found himself compelled by the sheer force of circumstances to write quite another. It is not that the facts themselves altered, for they are recorded imperishably in the monuments and in the pages of human history. Somehow, his perspective shifted. Not suddenly, as in a flash of insider inspirations, but slowly, almost imperceptively by the very stubbornness of the facts themselves.

Many of you may have heard of Josh McDowell, same thing. He believed that Christians were a bunch of morons. And, he was challenged; well, check it out yourself. He spent 13 years putting together two books. This is the first volume: Evidence That Demands a Verdict. He too came to the conclusion that it is true. He now spends all of his time traveling the country, sharing with intellectuals, his belief in the Bible and the Christian faith.

But my favorite, and the last guy I’ll talk about, is this guy, Lee Strobel. This is a fairly new book. After graduating from Yale law school, he went to work for the Chicago Tribune as a journalist, and eventually became head of the legal affairs department of the paper. He describes himself as a decadent atheist, and he says ”Until one day my wife comes in and declares to me that she’d become a Christian.” And, he thought, “This is going to be a disaster. Here I am, a decadent atheist and my wife wants to become an angel.” And so, over time, he realized, and watch things happen in the life of his wife. And, he realized, “She’s not going to let go of this.” And so, he decided, “I’m going to take a good, hard look at Christianity, probably with the hope of being able to demonstrate to his wife how foolish she was.” Let me read to you his words.

He says,” I launched on an all-out investigation into the facts surrounding Christianity. Setting aside my prejudice and self-interest as an atheist, I read books. I crisscrossed the country interviewing respected scholars, asked questions, analyzed history, explored archeology, studied ancient literature. And, for the first time in my life, picked apart the Bible verse-by-verse. I plunged in the case with more vigor than any story I had ever pursued. I applied all of my training as a lawyer, as well as my experience as legal affairs editor at the Tribune. And, over time, over a couple of years, the evidence began to point to the unthinkable. This is true. This is true.”

And, he too, became a believer in the Bible and a follower of Christ. And, one of the people he talked to, and this is my conclusion, was an 84-year-old professor at Princeton by the name of Dr. Bruce Metzger. Metzger probably had spent more time studying this issue than anybody on this planet. In fact, he may be deceased because this was probably four or five years ago when he interviewed him. He’s got multiple degrees from Princeton, including PhDs. He spent his entire life studying, focusing on the reliability of the Bible, particularly The New Testament. He authored and edited over 50 books, translated them into many languages on the subject. I can’t tell you all the honorary degrees he’s gotten. And, Strobel, when he had finished interview him, and he was leaving.

He said, “I asked him one last question.” And, this is what I leave you with. “As we stood, I thanked Dr. Metzker for his time and expertise. He smiled warmly and offered to walk me downstairs. I didn’t want to consume any more of his Saturday afternoon, but my curiosity wouldn’t let me leave Princeton without satisfying myself about one remaining issue. ‘All these decades of scholarship, of study, of writing books, of delving into the minutia of The New Testament texts. What has all this done to your personal faith? I asked.’

‘Oh,’ he said, sounding happy to discuss the topic. ‘It is increased the basis of my personal faith to see the firmness with which these materials have come down to us. With the multiplicity of copies, some of which are very, very ancient.’ ‘So,’ I started to say, ‘Scholarship has not diluted your faith?’ He jumped in before I could finish my sentence. ‘On the contrary,’ he stressed. ‘It is built. It I’ve asked questions all my life. I’ve dug into the text. I’ve studied this thoroughly.

And, today I know with confidence that my trust in Jesus has been well-placed.’ He paused. And, while his eyes surveyed my face, then he added for emphasis, ‘It is very well placed.”

I think Blaise Pascal was correct when he said, “God is there to be discovered by those who truly desire to find Him and remains hidden to those who choose to live without Him.”

 Thank you for being here this week.

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Reflections on the Existence of God

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