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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Part 9: The Resurrection of Jesus and God's existence

Welcome to part nine of the Resurrection series. Please see all preceding parts before continuing. Today, we will be talking about the importance of the Resurrection in conjunction with God's existence.

Another issue that must be answered by the skeptics is Jesus’ claims about Himself. Jesus claimed to be “Son of Man” first. Was this really true of Jesus or was the title invented, as many skeptics would have us believe? In order to answer this question, we must first consider that the term is referred to in the New Testament only three times outside of the Gospels, and Christians writings within 120 years after Jesus only mention it three times. This debunks the claim that the church made up the title as “Jesus’ favorite self-description” (page 241) – the church did not refer to Jesus in this way! Secondly, all of the four Gospels use this title in reference to Jesus. Thirdly, this title actually places more emphasis on Jesus’ humanity; this in itself seems to disprove the claim that the title merely evolved over time by the church. So what does this term mean? Daniel 7 refers to the “Son of Man” as divine, possessing eternal authority, glory, and power, and being worshipped. He also “rides on the clouds of heaven, something deity does” (page 242). Jesus also claimed to be the “Son of God.” The authenticity of this claim is verified by Mark’s statement that Jesus does not know the day or the hour, “but only the Father”; if Mark were making this story up, he would not have claimed that Jesus didn’t know something. Throughout antiquity, the term has been used of “divine beings, leaders, philosophers, angels, and the nation of Israel” (page 242). So what did Jesus mean when He thus referred to Himself? Let’s look at Mark 13:32. In this Scripture, Jesus says that no human knows the time of His coming, no angel knows, and not even the Son, but only the Father. This is called using “anabasis”; this is like saying, “I wouldn’t do that for a thousand dollars. I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars, and I wouldn’t do it for a billion dollars!” We are stressing the fact that we absolutely will not do it using a small amount of money and progressing up the scale to a very large sum. Likewise, Jesus progresses from human beings up to the Son of God – Whom He claims to be – showing that He is higher than them all. Therefore, we cannot only conclude that Jesus really did say what Mark recorded (as evidenced by the Principle of Embarrassment), but we can also see that He is the divine Son of God. Additionally, there are other texts which use the “Son of God” accompanied by significant proof that this is Who Jesus is. Two examples are Matthew 11:27 which states, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him”; and Mark 14:36 which says, “And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’” These facts are in strong support of Jesus’ claims to divinity.

But if atheism is true, and there is no God, then there certainly is no Son of God Who rose from the dead. To prove their point that Jesus did not rise from the dead, the atheists must first dismantle the fact of God’s existence. Therefore, they point to the problem of evil: If God is so good, why does He allow so much evil in the world? However, the atheist fails to realize that this does not disprove God’s existence; it merely attacks His character. It also misses the point that “It may be that we currently live in the best of all possible worlds, at least worlds wherein free beings are involved. If it’s true that God cannot engage in logical absurdities, perhaps he cannot make someone freely choose to do right all of the time” (page 242). Suffering can even cause us to grow, though it is perfectly clear from the Scriptures that God does not give us sufferings – He merely uses it for our good. Additionally, according to Scripture, God created a perfect world in which there was no evil – He saw everything that He made and it was good. But man allowed sin into the world through disobedience; everything evil was the consequence of his sin, because sin in itself is evil. Therefore, it is not God who allowed sin into the world, but man. Furthermore, there is actually good evidence which exists for God. The creation itself speaks of the goodness of God, for it is very unlikely that anything which exists just occurred by random chance. There is a beautiful pattern seen throughout all of creation which can only be attributed to an intelligent cause. In addition, there are many cosmic constants; that is, factors which govern the universe that if changed even slightly would drastically affect the earth – life would not be possible. If we take a look at all possible ways that the universe could have originated from the Big Bang, we get a ratio of 1 in 10 to the 124th power for “the ratio of life-permitting universes to life-prohibiting ones” (page 242). In addition to the universe having an unknown agent who assists its operation, physicists Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind of Stanford University and MIT concluded in a 2002 paper on the "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant that “the appearance of life in the universe requires ‘statistically miraculous events’ and is incomprehensively unlikely” (page 243). There is also the Cosmological argument which speaks in favor of a First Cause. This argument is as follows: (a) Everything that begins to exist has a cause. (b) The universe began to exist. (c) Therefore, the universe was caused. One major problem with the atheists assumption as to how life began is the Big Bang; if the Big Bang actually occurred, then the atheists are admitting that there was indeed a beginning to life -- therefore, there must be a cause for this beginning. Of course, Genesis 1 states that God created the heavens and the earth; it did not explode from nothing into something on its own. Still, the assumption of a Big Bang suggests a Causer. Therefore, the universe itself suggests the existence of God – a God who raised His Son Jesus from the dead.

Still, many skeptics claim that Jesus’ resurrection does not prove that God exists. Yet, the question has become who raised Jesus from the dead, and how did it happen? There is no dispute as to the fact that the Resurrection did occur. Secondly, there are absolutely no claims from or evidence for any other cause of the Resurrection. In fact, Jesus Himself claims that God raised Him from the dead. Thirdly, the Resurrection was not an incident which took place “in a corner” – it occurred to a Man “whose entire life was charged with religious significance” (page 243). For example, Jesus did many miracles and made many claims to divinity; many people saw the things which Jesus did and heard what Jesus taught. Additionally, Muslims claim that Jesus was never crucified and that He did not rise from the dead based on the Qur’an and the Gospel of Barnabas. However, this does not support the disciples’ claims that they saw the Resurrected Christ and believed in Him – a fact which is attested historically. And if Jesus were not crucified, what was it that caused the disciples to believe that He had risen? “The Qur’an claims that God raised Jesus up to himself, apparently at the time of the rescue (4:157-158). So who or what did the disciples see three days later?” (page 243). More importantly, if the Qu’ran is written six-hundred years after Jesus, why are we comparing it to the Bible? The Qu’ran is six-hundred years too late in providing any valuable information concerning Jesus. Furthermore, the Gospel of Barnabas, which the Muslims use to say that Jesus was not crucified or resurrected, appears to be a Muslim forgery concocted in the fifteenth century. However, no evidence exists before this time in support of the Gospel of Barnabas – no manuscripts and no citations by anyone in antiquity. But during the first eight centuries of Islam’s existence, there was intense debate between the church and the Muslims. Why, then, did not the church Fathers mention the Gospel of Barnabas? Granted, there is one fifth-century mention of the book, but this was a reference to its spurious nature – it was rejected by the church. The fact that the book is filled with medieval “anachronisms” makes it very likely that was a different Gospel of Barnabas than the one referred to today. But there is one mistake contained in the Gospel of Barnabas that sheds light on it’s forgery: The Hebrew/Aramaic term “Messiah” is translated as “Christ” in Greek; yet this gospel also refers to Jesus as the Christ several times even though it denies that Jesus is the Messiah! If the Barnabas of the New Testament had written this, he would have known Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek and would not have made such a mistake. Additionally, there are several telling anachronisms contained in the gospel; for example, it states that the Year of Jubilee occurred every 100 years, when it really occurred every 50 years. It also includes medieval feudalism, court procedures, and “wooden wine casks instead of wineskins used in first-century Palestine” (page 244). If the Gospel of Barnabas were really authentic, we would expect it to come from Palestine and support that point historically. Therefore, we see that the Muslim’s claim that Jesus was not crucified and did not rise from the dead falls in the dust compared to the evidence.

To be continued... Join us next time for the final post in our series, The Case for the Resurrection of Christ.

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