Can’t I just live a good moral life?

Man and worship?

Won’t a good, moral life get me to heaven? Well let’s begin first with the nature of man himself. One of the most remarkable things about humans is that from the dawn of history, and no matter where we find them on this planet, they worship. In fact, humans are the only species in the world who worship. Homo Sapiens is incurably religious. Why is man so inclined? What are the reasons, and how do they bear on our question about having good morals and getting to heaven? Let’s look briefly at some foundational elements that appear to be universals when it comes to human behavior.

The first, as we stated above, is simply that humans do worship. Ethnic groups of all kinds and in all places, whether remote or close to other peoples, have their own history, folklore, deities, rituals, particular moral system and life-customs. All of these enable each culture to cope with the great issues of life and its passages–from childhood to maturity to old age, and to the ultimate passage through that dark gate, Death. Christians tie this human inclination to worship directly to the fact that God says man, and only man, is created in His divine image (imago dei).

Secondly, what is also curious is how and what humans worship. The most prominent feature of human worship from earliest beginnings has been a sacrifice of some sort, whether the sheep, goats or bulls of the early Mediterranean world, or the human beings hurled into the mouths of volcanos by the Polynesians, or the child sacrifices of the Canaanites, or the ritual slaughter practiced by the Aztecs, the Incas, and virtually all of the New World Indians. In all cases, it appears some kind of blood must flow. We can also add to this (in many cultures) the prominence of self-sacrifice through flagellation, severe asceticism, or acts of personal penance. The centrality of sacrifice in all human religious thinking points to an unmistakable reality: that humans instinctively know, or at least suspect, that there exists One to whom they are accountable for their behavior. They also assume, or know, that they have fallen short of what that higher being (or beings) requires of them.

There is a universal sense that “God is not pleased with me.” So a third feature of worship is universal guilt. People worship because they feel guilty. They feel this guilt because they perceive they have fallen short of the standard that God, others, and they themselves require. The Great Global Heresy: Religion “Good little boys go to heaven and bad little boys go to hell!” Probably most of us, at one time or another, have undergone the ordeal of having a parent or a teacher point a finger at us (or a neighboring miscreant) and warn of the ultimate outcome of unacceptable behavior. This “Santa Claus” mentality suggests that God is “makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” Everywhere we turn, we hear people speak of this religion: it is the most popular approach to God on the planet. We all know about the good little angel sitting on one shoulder and the bad little angel on the other. And we are very familiar with jokes about what happens to the person who dies and is immediately face to face with Saint Peter at the Golden Gates of Heaven. Peter stands there ready to evaluate and pass judgement on whether we’ve been good enough to be admitted and accepted inside. Saint Peter expects us to give moral account of ourselves before we can go inside.

The general, world-wide assumption is that, when we die, our good deeds and our bad deeds will be placed on the divine scales and weighed to determine if we go “up” or “down.” However, from Christianity’s viewpoint, this is a great, global heresy. This is “religion,” but it is definitely not Christianity. In fact, Christianity is radically opposed to such an idea, teaching us that we are not to do something, but rather that something has already been done on our behalf. This global heresy, which we call “religion,” actually comes from Hinduism. It is the idea that God resides at the top of a great mountain, and it makes little difference which path a seeker chooses in his ascent up that mountain, since all paths lead to the God on top. And it is up to you to climb if you want to reach the summit–and God.

At the western end of the Forum in ancient Rome, there stood the Millenarium Aureum, the Golden Milestone, a gilded bronze column set up by Augustus Caesar to mark the junction and the origin of the major Roman roads spreading out like the spokes of a great wheel in every direction to distant destinations throughout the Empire. On this column were inscribed the major towns and their distances from Rome. From this came the popular saying, “All roads lead to Rome.” This is what religionists believe about God. They say things like, “Well, it really doesn’t matter what you believe. What’s important is that you try to do your best and be sincere about it. After all, we’re all trying to get to the same place; we all worship the same God.” But in the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, we encounter something very different: in fact, we discover that there are two possible approaches to God, but only one is acceptable.

After Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, they immediately hid in the bushes, took out needle and thread, and began sewing fig leaves together to cover themselves. God came and found them in the bushes–flunking the first home economics course ever offered! God looked at the clusters of fig leaves they had hastily sewn together, and He was not pleased. In fact, He scolded their efforts and their conduct. Adam and Eve not only had to admit their guilt and disobedience, they also had to acknowledge their inability to make things right through their own efforts. They could not cover, or atone, for what they had done. The account goes on to say that God had to take the initiative to adequately clothe them. He killed some animals and made garments from their skins for a covering. All philosophy, philanthropy, asceticism, religion, ethics, and all other systems which seek to gain the approval of God through human self-effort are the “fig-leaf” approach.

This method is at the heart of what we call “religion,” man’s best effort to reach up and find God. But the problem every worshipper encounters when climbing the mountain is an impenetrable barrier which denies all further advance: it is the barrier of God’s holiness and perfection. Each individual’s personal sin and imperfection prevents him or her from coming any closer. In his autobiography Mahatma Gandhi, a devout Hindu, speaks eloquently of his own struggle with this when he says: “Oh wretched man that I am. It is a constant source of torture to me that I am so far from the one I know to be my very life and being, and I know that it is my own sin and wretchedness that hides Him from me.” The Problem of Sin When the word “sin” comes up in a conversation, most people look as though someone just slipped them a mildewed fig! We do a lot of it; we just don’t like to talk about it! Many people do not know what sin or a sinner really is.

What is sin? Sin is a violation of the law, the standard God requires of every human. A sinner is therefore someone who has broken that standard. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that there is no good at all in people. There is a great deal of good. Humans are not as bad as they could be. The point is simply this: if our premise is that to get to heaven one has to be good, then how good is good enough? The Scriptures are quite clear about this. God is not demanding “goodness.” We saw above that Adam and Eve’s best efforts to cover themselves (fig leaves) were not enough. The good which is in man, all his moral achievement, is not acceptable to God–because God is not demanding goodness, He demands perfection! Many will say they try to live by the Ten Commandments or by some other rule of life, such as the Golden Rule. And yet, if we are honest, each of us discovers we have violated our own standards at some point. This is what Paul meant when he said, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The Grand Canyon is 6 to 18 miles across, 276 miles long, and one mile deep. The world’s record in the long jump, set by Mike Powell at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo is 29′ 4 1/2″. Yet the chances of a person jumping from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other are greater than that of someone attempting to establish fellowship with God through his own efforts. The standard man must meet is God’s perfection. Who can match that? It is a goal so far away that no one could ever reach it. To make matters worse, James tells us that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). This means if someone breaks just one of the commandments, he is as guilty as if he had broken all ten! The purpose of giving the Ten Commandments in the first place was not because God knew human beings would keep them perfectly.

The Bible tells us that these revealed standards were intended to be to us what an X-ray machine is to a broken arm. The machine reveals the condition of the arm, but it will not set and knit the bones, nor will it put the arm in a cast. By the same token, the Ten Commandments can only reveal to us the condition of our lives; they cannot heal us or cover our sin. The Pharisees looked at the Law and then at their own lives and said, “I’m pretty good, really good.” Jesus had wanted them to come to the opposite conclusion. He even called them hypocrites! He said they were wrong to claim they were righteous enough and that all was well between them and their Maker. That is why he said, “Those who are well do not need a physician” (Matthew 9:12). When you are well, you don’t seek a doctor. The time to consult a physician is when you realize you are sick. Jesus was urging the Pharisees to be honest about themselves when He said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (v.13).

This is man’s dilemma: like the Pharisees, people cling to the old fig leaves of self-effort instead of submitting to the covering God Himself has provided for all (Christ’s sacrificial death, the Cross). Each of us must choose one or the other (John 3:18, 36). The Problem of Righteousness While morality and human goodness are to be commended, God makes it clear from the very outset that no one, through his own efforts, possesses the ability to make himself presentable before God. It was Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said, “Man is basically a silkworm. A spinner and a weaver … trying to clothe himself … but the silkworm’s activity spins it a shroud. So it is with man.” Adam and Eve are classic examples. Our problem is not only that we have fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23), by sinning; we also lack something. We not only need the removal of personal sin through blood sacrifice to satisfy divine justice; we need something further to make us fit for heaven and the divine presence of God. In other words, Christ’s death in our place will keep us out of hell–but we still have the problem of getting into heaven. Isaiah spoke of this when he said, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6). Not our sins, but our good deeds! We need not only atonement for our sins, we also need righteousness to enter heaven! But it has to be a certain kind of righteousness.

The most righteous people of Jesus’ day were the Pharisees. They knew the Old Testament by heart. They went to the synagogue three times a day and prayed seven times a day. They were respected in the community. But Jesus looked right through their religious veneer and, in their presence, admonished the crowds that “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The crowds responded by staring at each other in bewilderment. “You mean the Pharisees aren’t righteous enough to go to heaven? If they can’t make it, who will?” In the Garden of Eden we observe this conflict between two kinds of righteousness–human righteousness, which is clearly symbolized by the fig leaf garments Adam and Eve sewed together to make themselves presentable before God, and divine righteousness, which is symbolized by the adequate covering of the slain animals provided by God Himself. We find these two kinds of righteousness marching and clashing with each other all the way through both Testaments. Paul referred to these same two righteousnesses when he said of his Jewish brethren, “I bear them witness, that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:1).

In the former Soviet Union, rubles are printed and circulated. With those rubles you can buy your dinner, pay your hotel bill, and purchase things in the shops. But if you brought those rubles back to America and tried to do the same thing, the rubles would not be honored. It would be futile to try to do business with rubles in America. Let’s think of these two righteousnesses in mathematical terms. Let’s call God’s righteousness “+R” and human righteousness “-R.” The first righteousness is absolute, while the second is relative. Over a lifetme, a human being can accumulate a huge pile of -R, but added up, it still totals -R. To do business with God in heaven, we must deal with Him in the only “currency” honored and accepted by Him, and that is +R. It is futile to try to negotiate with God on the basis of relative, human goodness. We need +R. Where do we get such “currency?” It is given to us as a gift if we will accept it–the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. The yardstick God uses to measure everyone is His Son. This +R righteousness is ours only in Christ: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). This gracious provision is a radical departure from all other religious ideas humans have ever conceived or set forth. It is so radical that human beings would never have thought of it. The Uniqueness of Christian Grace We have sought to arrive at a biblical answer to the question, “Will a good, moral life get me to heaven?”

We have examined the bankruptcy of every attempt by people to reach that goal through any and every means of self-effort. We have discovered that the salvation offered by Christianity is uniquely opposed to all human efforts to secure it by working one’s way into God’s good graces. In fact, if God expected us to attain our salvation through good deeds, then God made a terrible mistake. He allowed His only-begotten Son to come to earth–robed in human flesh–and die a horrible death on a cross for our personal, eternal benefit. To choose a “good works” path to God is to negate the total significance of Christ’s death, making it meaningless and unnecessary. What God has to offer is free. It is a gift that is not deserved by any of us, nor could we ever repay what the gift is worth. God has dealt with humankind in grace and love. The only thing that God has asked us to do is to humbly admit that we have broken His laws, acknowledge that He has indeed made things right through His Son’s sacrificial death on the cross, and accept His forgiveness by faith. We are invited to lay aside our own “fig-leaf” costumes and freely submit to the covering God has provided for us, the blood-stained garment of His Son, the very righteousness of Christ.

How can I know if the Bible is really true?

Bible

Let’s start with the New Testament. According to the Military Historian C. Sanders, there are three tests of reliability for an historical document: bibliographical, internal, and external tests[1].

Test 1 Bibliographical test

This test examines how accurately the books of the Bible have been preserved over 2000 years. Historians measure this in two ways:

a. Number of manuscripts available.

There are over 20,000 copies of New Testament documents, or fragments of documents in existence today[2].

There are no originals of the NT documents in existence.

b. The time interval between the original and the extant (earliest existing) copy.

The earliest copy (extant) of any NT document is the John Ryland manuscript which is dated A.D. 130.[3]
Homer’s Iliad has 643 manuscripts and is second in manuscript authority only to the New Testament.

So when were the New Testament books written?

William Albright, who was the world’s foremost biblical archaeologist, wrote:

“In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptised Jew between the forties and eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably some time between about 50 and 75 A.D.)”[4]

What about the gap between the original NT documents and the earliest copies?

Sir Frederick Kenyon who was the director and the principal librarian of the British Museum and second to none in authority in issuing statements about manuscripts concludes:

“The interval between the dates of the 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 have come 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.”[5]

“Computer analysis of all known NT manuscripts reveals only 0.1 percent variance. That means that 99.9 percent of the manuscripts’ contents are in perfect agreement.”[6]

Test 2 Internal evidence test

The bibliographical test has determined only that the text we have now is what was originally recorded. What if what was recorded was a lie? Then all we have is a well-preserved lie.

So the question we need to answer now is: “To what extent is the written record accurate?”

Historians use two tests to determine how accurate an historical document is:

a. How near chronologically was the witness to the event?

b. How near geographically was the witness to the event?

People who were eyewitnesses, or who had received their information from eyewitnesses, wrote the New Testament documents.

Luke 1:1-4 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

2 Peter 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

1 John 1:3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

What happens though if an eyewitness consciously or unconsciously tells falsehoods about what they saw? But there is further convincing internal evidence that what the New Testament writers recorded was truthful.

a. The documents about Jesus were circulating during the lifetime of those who saw Him.

Jesus caused a great stir politically and spiritually. He was a high profile person. People were writing down what He said and did. Some wrote to promote Him (e.g. John and Luke). Others wrote to accuse and convict Him (e.g. the Pharisees). If either side has written falsehood, it would have been quickly detected. In fact, those who were promoting Christ made appeal to common knowledge about Jesus.

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”

Acts 26:24-28 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane”. “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.

Lawrence J. McGinley comments on the value of hostile witnesses in relationship to recorded events:

“First of all, eyewitnesses of the events in question were still alive when the tradition had been completely formed; and among those eyewitnesses were bitter enemies of the new religious movement. Yet the tradition claimed to narrate a series of well known deeds and publicly taught doctrines at a time when false statements could, and would, be challenged”.

What McGinley is saying is that hostile witnesses keep testimonies honest!

But there is further convincing evidence that what the New Testament writers recorded was truthful. The authors of the New Testament books were living when their books were circulating. If an author wrote a book and someone changed the content of the book during the lifetime of the author, who would be the first to know? The author. The fact that the authors of NT books were alive when their books were circulating was another strong factor working to preserve their validity.

b. The inclusion of records of human failures, doubts and fears in the Bible

If the incidents recorded in the Bible were invented or made up, surely many negative aspects of the lives of Christians would have been concealed? Will Durant writes:

“Despite the theological preconceptions of the evangelists, they record many incidents that mere inventors would have concealed – the competition of the apostles for high places in the Kingdom, their flight after Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, the failure of Christ to work miracles in Galilee, the references of some auditors to his possible insanity, his early uncertainty as to his mission, his confession of ignorance as to the future, his moments of bitterness, his despairing cry on the cross. No one reading these scenes can doubt the reality of the figure behind them. That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic, and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels. After two centuries of Higher Criticism the outlines of the life, character and teaching of Christ remain reasonably clear and constitute the most fascinating feature in the future of Western man” 7

The third test that historians use to determine the reliability of an historical document is the external evidence test.

Test 3 External evidence test

This is the third test historians use to test whether an ancient document is trustworthy. Historians ask the question: Do other historical documents confirm or deny the validity of the documents in question? In other words, are there other documents, other than the ones under analysis, which confirm the accuracy, validity, and reliability of the document in question? There are nine sources[7] outside of the Bible, which confirm its validity.

a. Josephus, a respected Jewish historian and contemporary of the Apostles (A.D. 37-95)

‘Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ and, when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again on the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold, these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day’[8]

b. Tacitus

A well-known Roman historian. Tacitus was born in A.D. 52. Among the many other things he wrote about the Christians he writes ‘Christ was their founder. He was put to death by Pontius Pilate, who was procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius Caesar’[9]

c. Suetonius (A.D. 69-130)

Also a well-known Roman historian. Suetonius was a court official under the emperor Hadrian, the one who built Hadrian’s Wall in Britain. He records that the Jews were making constant disturbances against Christ, so Hadrian expelled them from Rome.[10]

The other four Roman historians who wrote about Christ are:

d. Lucian; (A.D.120 – 180)
e. Pliny (a Roman official); (A.D. 63-113)
f. Thallus (A.D. 50)
g. Serapion (A.D. 191-211)

Thallus tried to explain away the great darkness during the crucifixion, which even reached Rome where he lived and was still a talking point. He says it must have been an eclipse. But Julius, a Christian, pointed out that an eclipse is impossible during a full moon at the Passover.

And there are other sources.

Eusebius the historian, (A.D. 275 – 339) preserves the writings of Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis (A.D. 130). Papias reports that Mark was the interpreter of Peter the Apostle. Papias says of Mark “…[he] made no mistake, writing down … for he paid attention to this one thing, not to omit anything that he heard, not to include any false statement among them”.[11] What Mark wrote down from Peter (who walked and talked with Jesus for three years), plus his own notes and memories, he used to write the gospel of Mark.

Irenaeus (A.D. 130 – 202), Bishop of Lyons, writes in A.D. 180 ”…Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure [i.e. their death], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on his breast, himself produced his gospel, while he was living in Ephesus in Asia.”[12]

Fulfillment of Prophecy

The OT contains 306 prophecies about Christ’s coming to Earth. Each one of them came true, literally, exactly as predicted. According to Professor Peter Stoner, the probability of all 306 prophecies coming true is a number greater than the estimated stars in known space.

Professor Stoner calculates the probability of just eight prophecies coming true. To visualise how big such a number is, follow the following. Cover NZ with 20-cent coins, one metre deep. Paint one of the coins red. Take someone up in a plane over NZ. Blind fold them. Put a parachute on them. Ask that person to jump from the plane at any time as it fly’s from one end of the country to the other. The probability that that person would land, still blindfolded, and pick up the one red coin is the same as the probability of just eight Bible prophecies coming true.[13]

The ‘Ring of Truth’

In his book ‘The Ring of Truth’, J.B. Phillips tells of a radio interview he had with the distinguished classical scholar, Dr E.V.Rieu. Rieu was the scholar who translated

Homer into very Modern English for the “Penguin Classics”. Rieu was sixty, and a lifelong agnostic, when the same firm invited him to translate the Gospels. His son remarked: “It will be interesting to see what father makes of the four Gospels. It will be even more interesting to see what the four Gospels make of father.” The answer was soon forthcoming. A year later Dr Rieu, convinced and converted, joined the Church of England. When Phillips asked him, “Did you not get the feeling that the whole material was extraordinarily alive?” Rieu replied, “I got the deepest feeling. My work changed me. I came to the conclusion that these words bear the seal of the Son of Man and God.” Phillips concluded, “ I found it particularly thrilling to hear a man who is a scholar of the first rank, as well as a man of wisdom and experience, openly admitting that these words written long ago were alive with power. They bore to him as to me, the ring of truth.”[14]

To Finish

The eighteenth century French skeptic Voltaire boasted, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible on earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker” while his works would be found in every household. But 50 years after Voltaire’s death, the Geneva Bible society purchased the infidel’s old home and moved in presses to print the Word of God! Two hundred years later, on Christmas Eve, 1933, the British government paid the Russian Government $AU1.3m for one copy of the Bible in Greek – Codex Sinaiticus. That same day a first edition of Voltaire sold in Paris for 11 cents.[15]

[1] C. Sanders. Introduction to Research in English Literary History. MacMillan Company. New York. 1952. p143ff. cited in: Josh MacDowell. More than a Carpenter. p46.

[2] Josh MacDowell. More than a carpenter. Kingsway Publications. Eastbourne. 1989. p47.

[3] Paul Little. Know why you believe. Inter-varsity Press. 1988. p78.

[4] William F Albright. Christianity Today. Vol. 7. Jan.18,1963. p3. cited in: Josh MacDowell. More than a Carpenter. p43.

[5] Josh MacDowell. More than a carpenter. Kingsway Publications. Eastbourne. 1989. p48.

[6] Terry Hall. How the Bible became a Book. Victor books. London. 1990. p135.

[7] Dr E.K. Victor Pearce. Archaelogy; Evidence for Truth. Vol.2. Eagle Publishing. 1998. p158.

[8] Ibid, p158. Quoted from Josephus’ main work The Wars of the Jews.

[9] Ibid, p159.

[10] Dr E.K. Victor Pearce. Archaelogy; Evidence for Truth. Vol.2. Eagle Publishing. 1998. p158.

[11] Josh MacDowell, More than a carpenter. Kingsway Publications. Eastbourne. 1989. p54.

[12] Ibid, p55.

[13] Terry Hall. How the Bible became a Book. Victor books. London. 1990. p140.

[14] Dick Tripp. Did the New Testament Writers Get their Picture of Jesus right?. Published by Dick Tripp. Governors Bay, New Zealand. 1996. p22

[15] Terry Hall. How the Bible became a Book. Victor books. London. 1990. p142.

What about the Old Testament? Is there verifiable evidence that such ancient writings are accurate?
(Acknowledgment to pleaseconvinceme.com for this excellent article)
The Old Testament Has Been Archaeologically Verified

Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Many of us are confronted by people who level criticism against the Bible concerning its historical reliability. These folks will generally say that there is a lack of evidence from outside sources confirming the Biblical record. And because the Bible is a religious book, many people take the position that it is biased and cannot be trusted unless we have corroborating evidence from extra-Biblical sources. In other words, the Bible is guilty until proven innocent, and a lack of outside evidence places the Biblical account in doubt. People will NOT give the Bible the benefit of the doubt at all.

These same people don’t require this of other ancient documents, even though many, if not most, have a religious element. These other documents are considered to be accurate unless there is evidence to show that they are not. In other words, for ancient documents other than the Bible, people will always assume them to be INNOCENT of error until proven guilty, not the other way around! Although it may not be possible to verify EVERY incident in the Bible, the discoveries of archeology since the mid-1800′s have demonstrated the reliability and plausibility of the Biblical narrative. We know enough now to measure the reliability of the Scripture as a historical text, and the Bible DOES measure up.

The Ebla Discovery
For many years, critics of the Old Testament argued that the most ancient of Patriarchs (Abraham among them) did not contribute anything in writing to the scriptures. They basically claimed that Moses invented the stories found in Genesis (if Moses even wrote them at all!) They argued that ancient people of these times were too primitive to record documents with any detail. In addition, these same critics argued that there was no verification that the people and cities mentioned in the oldest of Biblical accounts ever really existed.

Ebla Tablet

Well, the discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970′s has confirmed that the Biblical writings concerning the Patriarchs are viable. During the excavations of the palace in 1975, the excavators found a large library (in a royal archive room), filled with tablets dating from 2400 -2300 BC. Nearly 15,000 tablets and fragments were found, but when joined together they account for about 2,500 tablets. These tablets demonstrate that personal and location titles in the Patriarchal accounts are genuine. For years, critics said that the name ‘Canaan’ was used incorrectly in the early chapters of the Bible; that the term was never used at this time in history, proving that it was a late insertion and that the earliest books were not written in the times that are described. But in the Ebla tablets, the word “Canaan” does appear, contrary to the critics’ claim. The tablets proved that the term was actually used in ancient Syria during the time in which the Old Testament was written.

In addition, critics also claimed that the word ‘Tehom’ (‘the deep’ in Genesis 1:2) was a late addition demonstrating the late writing of the creation story. But ‘Tehom’ was part of the vocabulary at Ebla as well, in use some 800 years before Moses! In fact, there is a creation record in the Ebla Tablets that is remarkably similar to the Genesis account! In addition this, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (once thought to be pure fiction) are also identified in the Ebla tablets, as well as the city of Haran. This latter city is described in Genesis as the city of Abram’s father, Terah. Prior to this discovery, ‘scholars’ doubted the presence of the ancient city.

The Ebla discovery bolstered the Biblical account and it did this in several ways. First, it confirmed the locations of several ancient cities that had long been doubted. In addition to this, however, it confirmed the use of several terms and names hat had also been doubted. And finally, it confirmed that ancient people living in the city of Ebla, (only 150 miles from Haran) were eloquent and conscientious historians and authors. Critics had argued that ancient people of this time were NOT capable of intricate and detailed record keeping, but the Ebla Tablets prove otherwise. It is well within reason to believe that Abraham recorded detailed accounts of his life and his family and that these records were used later by Moses to write the account we presently have in the Book of Genesis.

Other Ancient Confirmation
In addition to the Ebla Tablets, other archaeological findings have also confirmed the ancient truth and customs reflected in the stories of the Patriarchs. These cultural customs have been confirmed in clay tablets found in digs in the cities of Nuzi and Mari. In addition to these, archaeological digs in the city of Bogazkoy, Turkey have confirmed the existence of the Hittites who were once thought to be a Biblical legend (until their capital and records were discovered)! In a similar way, many thought the Biblical references to Solomon’s wealth were greatly exaggerated. But recovered records from the past show that wealth in antiquity was concentrated with the king and Solomon’s prosperity is now considered to be entirely feasible.

Hittites

“Scholars” have also claimed that there was no Assyrian king named Sargon as recorded in Isaiah 20:1, (because this name was not known in any other record). But archeology once again proved the Biblical account to be true. Sargon’s palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq. The very event mentioned in Isaiah 20, his capture of Ashdod, was recorded on the palace walls! What is more, fragments of a stela memorializing the victory were found at Ashdod itself.

Sargon

Belshazzar, king of Babylon, was another historic king who was doubted by critics. Belshazzar is named in Daniel 5, but according to the non-Biblical historic record, the last king of Babylon was Nabonidus. Tablets have been found, however, that reveal that Belshazzar was Nabonidus’ son and Belshazzar served as coregent in Babylon. If this is the case, Belshazzar could offer to make Daniel ‘third highest ruler in the kingdom’ (as recorded in Daniel 5:16) for reading the handwriting on the wall, and this would have been the highest available position. Here, once again we see the ‘eye-witness’ nature of the Biblical record has been confirmed by archaeology.

Belshazar Tablet

But it’s not just kings and well known figures who have been verified by archeology over the years! There are thousands of ‘lesser known’ and relatively unimportant characters in the Bible who could easily be overlooked if not for the fact that archeology continues to verify them. One such person is Nebo-Sarsekim. Nebo-Sarsekim is mentioned in the Bible in chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah. According to Jeremiah, this man was Nebuchadnezzar II’s “chief officer” and was with him at the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC, when the Babylonians overran the city. Many skeptics have doubted this claim, but in July of 2007, Michael Jursa, a visiting professor from Vienna, discovered Nebo-Sarsekim’s name (Nabu-sharrussu-ukin) written on an Assyrian cuneiform tablet! This tablet was used as a receipt acknowledging Nabu-sharrussu-ukin’s payment of 0.75 kg of gold to a temple in Babylon, and it described Nebo-Sarsekim as “the chief eunuch” of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon. The tablet is dated to the 10th year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, 595BC, 12 years before the siege of Jerusalem, once again verifying the dating and record of the Bible!

Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet

Another “lessor known” Biblical character (or family in this case) has also been confirmed archaeologically. In January of 2008, archaeologists discovered a stone seal bearing the name of one of the families who acted as servants in the First Temple (and then returned to Jerusalem after being exiled to Babylonia). The seal was uncovered in an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem’s City of David. It was 2,500 years old at the time of its discovery, and it contained the name “Temech” engraved on its surface. It was discovered amid stratified debris in an excavation just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate. According to the Book of Nehemiah, the Temech family were servants of the First Temple and were exiled to Babylon following its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Nehemiah lists them among many other families in Nehemiah 7:6, 46, 55: “These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city…The Nethinim … The children of Temech.” The seal of one of the members of the Temech family was discovered just dozens of meters away from the Opel area, where the servants of the Temple, or “Nethinim,” lived in the time of Nehemiah.

Temech Seal

Archeology has confirmed more than individuals and people groups found in the Old Testament. Over and over again, archeology has confirmed historical facts that were once doubted by the “experts”. As an example, historians once doubted the historicity of Nehemiah’s account of the restoration of Jerusalem that is found in the Bible. Nehemiah lived during the period when Judah was a province of the Persian Empire, and he arrived in Jerusalem as governor in 445 BC. With the permission of the Persian king, he decided to rebuild and restore the city after the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians (which occurred a century earlier, in 586 BC). The Book of Nehemiah records the completion of this wall in just 52 days, and many historians did not believe this to be true, since the wall itself was never discovered. But in November of 2007, the remnants of the wall were uncovered in an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem’s ancient City of David, strengthening recent claims that King David’s palace was also found at the site. Experts now agree that the wall has been discovered along with the palace and once again the Old Testament has been verified.

Nehemiah’s Wall

They Recorded A Flood Too!
But of all the Biblical historical accounts, perhaps the most doubted has been the Biblical account of the Flood (as described in Genesis 6-9). Well, it just so happens that the most doubted event is also the most archaeologically documented. A number of Babylonian documents have been discovered which describe the same flood. The Sumerian King List, for example, lists kings who reigned for long periods of time. Then a great flood came. Following the flood, this Babylonian document records that Sumerian kings ruled for much shorter periods of time. This just so happens to be the same pattern that is found in the Bible. Men had long life spans before the flood and shorter life spans after the flood. In addition, the 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic speaks of an ark, animals taken on the ark, birds sent out during the course of the flood, the ark landing on a mountain, and a sacrifice offered after the ark landed.

And be aware of the fact that flood stories have been discovered among nearly ALL nations and tribes. Though most common on the Asian mainland, the islands immediately south of the continent and on the North American continent, they have been found on ALL the continents. There are approximately 270 known Flood stories. Although these traditions have been modified through the ages and some have taken on fantastic elements, most of them have certain basic elements in common:

88% of them single out a favored individual or family.
70% point to survival due to a boat.
66% see the Flood coming as a result of human wickedness.
67% speak of animals saved along with human beings.
57 % record that the survivors end up on a mountain.
66% indicate that the hero receives warning of the coming catastrophe.

Critics sometimes claim that these flood stories came from recent contact with Christian missionaries, but this claim will not stand up; most of the stories were gathered and documented by anthropologists who were uninterested in confirming the truth of the Bible. In addition to this, these common tales of a worldwide flood are filled with fanciful and pagan elements, evidently the result of the telling and re-telling of the story for extended periods of time in a non-Biblical society. It should also be noted that the ancient accounts were written by people who very much opposed the Hebrew-Christian tradition.

There Are Other Common Historical Accounts
In addition to the flood story, there are other non-Biblical accounts that record events that are also found in the Bible. The Story of Adapa tells of a test for immortality involving food, similar to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sumerian tablets record the confusion of language as we have in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). This account records a golden age when all mankind spoke the same language. Speech was then confused by the god Enki, lord of wisdom. The Babylonians had a similar account in which the gods destroyed a temple tower and ‘scattered them abroad and made strange their speech.’

And There’s a Whole Lot More!
In addition to all of this, there are many Biblical events that have now been confirmed by extra-Biblical sources. There are so many examples of Biblical confirmation, in fact, that it would be ridiculous to try to list it all in a single webpage. Volumes of books have already been written. But, let’s just take a look at a few examples:

The campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak
(1 Kings 14:25-26) is recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.

The revolt of Moab against Israel
(2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) is recorded on the Mesha Inscription.

The fall of Samaria
(2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria, is recorded on his palace walls.

The defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II
(Isaiah 20:1) is recorded on his palace walls.

The campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah
(2 Kings 18:13-16) is recorded on the Taylor Prism.

The siege of Lachish by Sennacherib
(2 Kings 18:14, 17) is recorded on the Lachish reliefs.

The assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons
(2 Kings 19:37) is recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.

The fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah
(2 Kings 2:13-15) is recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar.

The fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon
(2 Kings 24:10-14) is recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.

The captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon
(2 Kings 24:15-16) is recorded on the Babylonian Ration Records.

The fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians
(Daniel 5:30-31) is recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.

The freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great
(Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4) is recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.

Have They Been Fair?
For years, critics of the Biblical account have doubted its reliability, not because there existed archaeological evidence that DISPROVED its claims, but simply because there was no discovered archaeological evidence found to SUBSTANTIATE its claims. In essence, because there was nothing to prove the Bible innocent, they simply assumed it was guilty of a lie. Is that really fair? Even now, critics will admit that much of what has been written in the Bible has been confirmed archaeologically, yet these same critics will continue to argue that extra-Biblical confirmation of SOME of the Bible does not constitute confirmation of ALL of the Bible. Of course that is true. But with so much confirmation in the archaeological record, why must the critics assume the Bible is lying first, until forced to admit the truth under the pressure of an ever increasing body of archaeological evidence? Why must the Bible be guilty until proven innocent?

Perhaps it is because the Bible, unlike secular records and histories, not only tells a tale of an ancient people, but also tells a tale of an ancient God who has a purpose for our lives and an expectation that accompanies this purpose. Are the critics of the Bible uncomfortable with the Biblical history, or are they simply uncomfortable with the Biblical God of accountability?
Thanks to www.pleaseconvinceme.com for this latter article on the Old Testiment.

Don’t all paths lead to God?

compassOption One – All Paths Lead to the Same Destination

Some claim that all religions represent differing, yet equally valid, routes to the same destination. Though each religion may choose its own path, all paths converge at the top of the same mountain. Advocates of this position are aware of the diversity of belief and practice that separate all religions. Nevertheless, they typically offer the following points in support of their thesis:

First, it is intolerant to say that one religion is true and the others, which disagree, are false.

Second, the contrasting claims of different religions do not prove that one religion is true and the others false. Instead it suggests that none of them possesses the entire truth but only bits and pieces of it. Imagine three blind men touching an elephant. The first blind man is holding the leg and explains “I think the elephant is like the trunk of a great tree.” The second disagrees as he is holding the trunk. “No I believe an elephant is like a snake.” The third blind man exclaims “No, you are both wrong, an elephant is like a wall.” as he touches the side of the elephant. Each thinks he is right and the others wrong and in a similar way is it not possible that all religions are in contact with the same ultimate reality but simply describe it in different ways?

Finally, all religions share a common ethical core. Each of the religions has traditions which produce a similar moral / ethical transformation in the lives of its followers. It would be seeming difficult to prove that one religious tradition is more effective than others in transforming the lives of its followers.

These three arguments may sound good but the assumption that all paths lead to God has a problem of conflicting truth claims. Every religious tradition makes truth-claims and some of these truth-claims contradict those of other religions. Let’s look at three of those areas of disagreement.

1. The The Nature of ‘God’

There are three main ‘categories’ of belief in God. Monotheism (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is the belief there is only one God. Polytheism (such as Hinduism) is the belief there are many Gods. Atheism maintains that there is NO God. These three categories are mutually exclusive. One MUST be correct and the other two MUST be wrong. Think about it. There must be either only one God, many god’s, or no God. Which one? They cannot all be correct as they mutually exclude the other two categories from being correct.

2. The Definition of ‘God’

If all paths lead to God, it would be important to define ‘God’. Very quickly when one looks at different religions you discover there is a vast divide in the definition of who or what “God” is and clearly each are describing someone or something quite different. So not only are the paths different, so is the destination. In the spirit of inclusiveness, let’s assume that each definition of ‘God’ is right, then it would be more correct to say that “Different paths lead to a different God”. This is quite a different statement and assumes that there are different God’s. The only way to maintain that “All paths lead to God” is like the elephant illustration, to say that different religions worship the same God, but understand different aspects of God to each other. But even a shallow investigation into the variety of definitions of who or what God is will inevitably lead you to the conclusion that the religions are not describing different aspects of God, rather are intrinsically contradictory.

3. Contradiction of the fate of Individuals at death.

Some religions teaches that each person will die once and then face judgement by God and depending on God’s judgment, a person will either spend eternity in heaven or hell. In contrast other religions believe that the conditions of a persons past and future existence are determined by the cosmic laws of karma. Following death each of us are reincarnated into a different form (human, animal, etc.).

These conflicting claims about the nature and definition of ‘God’, and the fate of individuals at death are only three of the conflicting assertions made by different religions. These conflicts render invalid the assumption that all paths lead to the same destination. Consider this:

– On the 10th of April 1912 the Titanic set off on it’s maiden voyage.
– On the 10th of April 1912 the Titanic did not set off on it’s maiden voyage.

Both of these statements cannot be correct at the same time. Two contradictory assertions cannot both be correct. Likewise if two religions make truth-claims which contradict each other, they cannot both be right.

In light of the conflicting truth-claims of various religions it does not seem rational to believe that all paths lead to the same destination.

Option Two – All Paths Do Not Lead to the Same Destination

At first glance this position may seem unreasonable and ‘intolerant’. But this is not an issue of tolerance, but an issue of truth. We can be tolerant of people through respecting and honouring people, who believe something different to ourselves. But to believe that contradictory truth claims are all correct is not tolerance, it is refusing to use your brain.

So if there is only one path that is “valid” how could it ever be identified? If you haven’t already please check out the link on whether the Bible is true or not. This is a good starting point. Because if the Bible is correct, then the truth can only be found through Jesus Christ, who claimed to be “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Jesus said that you can “know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free”.

What about all the other religions?

We all want to make it through life with some degree of success, some sense that we did it right. And if others think they know a way for life to be satisfying, even meaningful, it’s at least worth checking out. What about the major world religions? Is there anything we can find there that would give our lives greater stability and value?

The following is an opportunity to look into the major world faith systems…Hinduism, New Age, Buddhism, Islam, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Included is a brief description of each, its distinguishing characteristics, and what a person can gain from each. The author then presents for your consideration the ways in which Jesus’ teaching differs from the world’s religions.

Hinduism

Most Hindus worship a multitude of gods and goddesses, some 300,000 of them. These various gods all converge into a universal spirit called the Ultimate Reality or Brahman. Brahman is not a god, but more of a term for ultimate oneness.

Hindus see their position in this present life as based on their actions in a previous life. If their behavior before was evil, they might experience tremendous hardships in this life. A Hindu’s goal is to become free from the law of karma…to be free from continuous reincarnations.

There are three possible ways to end this cycle of karma: 1. Be lovingly devoted to any of the Hindu gods or goddesses; 2. Grow in knowledge through meditation of Brahman (oneness)…to realize that circumstances in life are not real, that selfhood is an illusion and only Brahman is real; 3. Be dedicated to various religious ceremonies and rites.

In Hinduism, a person has the freedom to choose how to work toward spiritual perfection. Hinduism also has a possible explanation for the suffering and evil in the world. According to Hinduism, the suffering anyone experiences, whether it is sickness or starvation or a disaster, is due that person because of their own evil actions, usually from a previous lifetime. Only the soul matters which will one day be free of the cycle of rebirths and be at rest.

New Age

New Age promotes the development of the person’s own power or divinity. When referring to God, a follower of New Age is not talking about a transcendent, personal God who created the universe, but is referring to a higher consciousness within themselves. A person in New Age would see themselves as God, the cosmos, the universe. In fact, everything that the person sees, hears, feels or imagines is to be considered divine.

Highly eclectic, New Age presents itself as a collection of ancient spiritual traditions. It acknowledges many gods and goddesses, as in Hinduism. The Earth is viewed as the source of all spirituality, and has its own intelligence, emotions and deity. But superseding all is self. Self is the originator, controller and God of all. There is no reality outside of what the person determines.

New Age teaches a wide array of eastern mysticism and spiritual, metaphysical and psychic techniques, such as breathing exercises, chanting, drumming, meditating…to develop an altered consciousness and one’s own divinity.

Anything negative a person experiences (failures, sadness, anger, selfishness, hurt) is considered an illusion. Believing themselves to be completely sovereign over their life, nothing about their life is wrong, negative or painful. Eventually a person develops spiritually to the degree that there is no objective, external reality. A person, becoming a god, creates their own reality.

Buddhism

Buddhists do not worship any gods or God. People outside of Buddhism often think that Buddhists worship the Buddha. However, Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) never claimed to be divine, and Buddhists reject the notion of any supernatural power. The universe operates by natural law. Life is seen as consisting of pain: pain in birth, sickness, death, and continuous sorrow and despair. Most Buddhists believe a person has hundreds or thousands of reincarnations, all bringing misery. And it is the desire for happiness that causes a person’s reincarnation. Therefore, the goal of a Buddhist is to purify one’s heart and to let go of all desires. A person must abandon all sensuous pleasures, all evil, all joy and all sorrow.

To do so, Buddhists are to follow a list of religious principles and intense meditation. When a Buddhist meditates it is not the same as praying or focusing on a god, it is more of a self-discipline. Through dedicated meditation a person may reach Nirvana — “the blowing out” of the flame of desire.

Buddhism provides something that is true of most world religions: disciplines, values and directives that a person may want to live by. Some of these Buddhist guidelines are: Do not destroy any living creature; abandon all sensual pleasures; abandon all evil qualities, and both joy and sorrow.

Islam

Muslims believe there is the one almighty God, named Allah, who is infinitely superior to and transcendent from humankind. Allah is viewed as the creator of the universe and the source of all good and all evil. Everything that happens is Allah’s will. He is a powerful and strict judge, who will be merciful toward followers depending on the sufficiency of their life’s good works and religious devotion. A follower’s relationship with Allah is as a servant to Allah.

Though a Muslim honors several prophets, Muhammad is considered the last prophet and his words and lifestyle are that person’s authority. To be a Muslim, one has to follow five religious duties: 1. Repeat a creed about Allah and Muhammad; 2. Recite certain prayers in Arabic five times a day; 3. Give to the needy; 4. One month each year, fast from food, drink, sex and smoking from sunrise to sunset; 5. Pilgrimage once in one’s lifetime to worship at a shrine in Mecca. At death — based on one’s faithfulness to these duties — a Muslim hopes to enter Paradise, a place of sensual pleasure. If not, they will be eternally punished in hell.

For many people, Islam matches their expectations about religion and deity. Islam teaches that there is one supreme God, who is worshiped through good deeds and disciplined religious rituals. After death a person is rewarded or punished according to their religious devotion.

Christianity — Faith in Jesus Christ

Christians believe in a loving God who has revealed Himself and can be personally known in this life. With Jesus Christ, the person’s focus is not on religious rituals or performing good works, but on enjoying a relationship with God and growing to know him better.

Faith in Jesus Christ himself, not just in his teachings, is how the Christian experiences joy and a meaningful life. In his life on Earth, Jesus did not identify Himself as a prophet pointing to God or as a teacher of enlightenment. Rather, Jesus claimed to be God in human form. He performed miracles, forgave people of their sin and said that anyone who believed in Him would have eternal life. He made statements like, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(1)

Christians regard the Bible as God’s written message to humankind. In addition to its being an historical record of Jesus’ life and miracles, the Bible reveals God’s personality, His love and truth, and how one can have a relationship with Him.

Whatever circumstances a Christian is dealing with in their life, they can confidently turn to a wise and powerful God who genuinely loves them. They believe that God answers prayer and that life takes on meaning as they live to honor Him.

Is there a difference?

In looking at these major belief systems and their views of God, we find tremendous diversity:

Hindus believe in 300,000 gods.

Buddhists say there is no deity.

New Age followers believe they are God.

Muslims believe in a powerful but detached God.

Christians believe in a God who is loving and approachable.

Are all religions worshiping the same God? Let’s consider that. New Age teaches that everyone should come to center on a cosmic consciousness, but it would require Islam to give up their God, Hinduism to give up their numerous gods, and Buddhism to establish that there is a God.

The world’s major religions (Hinduism, New Age, Buddhism, Islam, following Jesus Christ) are each quite unique. And of these one affirms that there is a personal, loving God who can be known, now in this life. Jesus Christ spoke of a God who welcomes us into a relationship with Him and comes along side us as a comforter, counselor and powerful God who loves us.

In Hinduism a person is on their own trying to gain release from karma. In New Age a person is working at their own divinity. In Buddhism it is an individual quest at being free from desire. And in Islam, the individual follows religious laws for the sake of paradise after death. In Jesus’ teaching, you see a personal relationship with a personal God — a relationship that carries over into the next life.

Can a person connect with God in this life?

The answer is yes. Not only can you connect with God, you also can know that you are fully accepted and loved by God.

Many world religions place an individual on their own, striving for spiritual perfection. Buddha, for example, never claimed sinlessness. Muhammad also admitted that he was in need of forgiveness. “No matter how wise, no matter how gifted, no matter how influential other prophets, gurus, and teachers might be, they had the presence of mind to know that they were imperfect just like the rest of us.”(2)

Jesus Christ, however, never alluded to any personal sin. Instead, Jesus forgave people of their sin and He wants to forgive us of our sin also. We all are aware that we have broken God’s Laws (sin), e.g. a bad temper, impurity, hateful remarks, pride, lust, greed, lying, etc. God loves us but hates sin, and He has said that the consequence for sin is separation from knowing Him. But God provided a way for us to be forgiven and know Him. Jesus, the Son of God, God in human form, took all of our sin on Himself, suffered on a cross, and willingly died in our place. The Bible says, “By this we know love, that He laid down his life for us.”(3)

God is offering us complete forgiveness because of Jesus’ death for us. This means forgiveness for all our sins…past, present and future. Jesus paid for them all. God, who created the universe, loves us and wants to be in a relationship with us. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.”(4)

Through Christ, God offers us real freedom from our sin and guilt. He does not leave a person’s failures on their shoulders, with a dim hope of becoming a better person tomorrow. In Jesus Christ, God reached toward humanity, providing a way for us to know Him. “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”(5)

God wants us to know Him.

We were created by God to live in relationship with him. Jesus said, “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty…and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”(6) Jesus called people not only to follow his teachings, but to follow Him. He said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.”(7) In claiming to be the truth, Christ goes beyond mere prophets and teachers who simply said they were speaking the truth.(8)

Jesus identified Himself as equal to God, and even gave proof. Jesus said that He would be crucified on a cross and that three days after his death, He would come back to life. He didn’t say He would reincarnate someday into a future life. (Who would know if he actually did it?) He said three days after being buried He would show himself alive to those who saw his crucifixion. On that third day, Jesus’ tomb was found empty and many people testified that they saw him alive again. He now offers eternal life to us.

It’s a two-way Relationship.

Many religions focus on a person’s spiritual efforts. With Jesus Christ it’s a two-way interaction between you and God. He welcomes us to go to Him. “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”(9) You can communicate with God, who will answer your prayer, give you greater peace and joy, provide direction, show you His love, and transform your life. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”(10) It will not mean that life will become perfect and free of problems. But it means that in the midst of life, you can relate to God who is willing to be involved in your life and faithful in his love.

This is not a commitment to a method of self-improvement like the Eight Fold Path or the Five Pillars, or meditation, or good works or even the Ten Commandments. These seem clear, well-defined, easy-to-follow paths for spirituality. But they become a burdensome striving for perfection, and connection with God is still distant. Our hope is not in following laws or standards, but in knowing a Savior who fully accepts us because of our faith in Him and his sacrifice for us. We don’t earn our place in heaven by religious efforts or good deeds. Heaven is a free gift to us, when we surrender over our lives and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Would you like to be totally forgiven and personally come to know God’s love for you?

Beginning a relationship with God.

You can begin a relationship with God right now. Maybe you are unsure about whether following Jesus is right? You could simply pray “God of the universe, I want to know the truth. Please show me who You are, reveal yourself to me is some way.” Then be open to seeing God show Himself to you, it may surprise you just how He does this! Maybe you are ready to start a relationship with God. If you are aware that you have broken God’s Laws and are sincerely sorry and willing to turn from your old life, then you need to surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer you could pray. Understand though that this is not a magic set of words, what is important is what is happening in your heart and that you completely surrender over your life to Jesus. “God, I am sorry for breaking Your laws and living life my own way instead of following You. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me. I ask you to forgive me and give me the strength to turn away from everything that is wrong in my life. I want to follow and obey you. I surrender my life over to you. Please come into my life, connect me to You, transform me into the person you want me to be. Help me get to know you personally as I spend time with you day by day. Amen.”

The Bible tells us that “as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God.”(11) If you sincerely asked God to come into your life, you have begun a personal relationship with him. It is like you have just met God and he wants to help you grow to know him better, to know his love for you, to guide you with wisdom in whatever decisions confront you. The book called “Mark” in the Bible is a good place to learn more about a relationship with God. It is extremely important that you tell someone else about the decision you have made today that can help you in your ongoing journey. Do you have a friend of family member that is a vibrant Christian that you could talk to? If not, please contact us through the contact menu on this site, we would love to hear from you.

Religion is man trying to reach out to God, Christianity is God reaching out to man. Religion is having a relationship with teachings, ‘do’s and don’t’s’, ideas, paths, rituals. But through Jesus, a person can have a relationship with the loving and powerful Creator of the Universe. You can talk with Him and He will guide you in this life now. He doesn’t just point you to a path, a philosophy. He welcomes you to know Him, to experience joy, and to have confidence in His love in the midst of life’s challenges. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.”(12)

Notes

{1} John 8:12

{2} Erwin W. Lutzer, Christ Among Other Gods (Chicago: Moody Press,1994), p. 63

{3} 1 John 3:16

{4} 1 John 4:9

{5} John 3:16

{6} John 6:35

{7} John 14:6

{8} Lutzer, p. 106

{9} Psalms 145:18

{10} John 10:10

{11} John 1:12

{12} 1 John 3:1

Does God exist?

Kid with thumbs upThe short answer

The existence of a supernatural designer of some sort is self-evident. If you see a building, you know that there was a builder who built it. You may have never seen or know who built it and there may not be any records to prove that anyone did, but it is self-evident because the building is the evidence of the builder. Likewise when you see a piece of art, you know that there is an artist. When you see the information in a book, you know there was an author. When you look at creation, you know that there must be a Creator. Nothing intelligently designed is without an Intelligent Designer. It is an axiom, a self-evident truth. Looking at the complexity, design and information contained in creation, it would be far fetched for any unbiased mind to conclude anything else than the existence of an Intelligent Designer. Of course you may argue about who or what this ‘Intelligent Designer’ is, but that is another topic to explore elsewhere.

The long answer

The following is an extract from the The Craig-Washington Debate, used with thanks.

> I’m going to be defending two basic contentions: First of all, that there’s no good reason to think that atheism is true and, secondly, that there are good reasons to think that theism (believing in God) is true.

I. There are no good reasons to think that atheism is true.

So let’s look at my first major contention together, that there are no good reasons to think that atheism is true. Atheism, or the claim that there is no God, is just as much a claim to know something as is theism, the claim that God does exist. Therefore, if the atheist is to prove his view, he must do more than say, “There’s no good evidence for God’s existence.” He must present positive evidence against God’s existence. Atheist philosophers have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God, but no one has been able to come up with a convincing argument. So … “What is the evidence that atheism is true?”

II. There are good reasons to think that theism is true.

So let’s turn, then, to my second basic contention, that there are good reasons to think that theism is true. Now I’m not claiming that I can prove that God exists with some sort of mathematical certainty. I’m certainly not going to be able to convince you against your will. I’m just saying that the evidence makes it plausible that God exists, that on balance theism is more probable than atheism. Let me present six reasons why I think it’s plausible that God exists.{1} We’ll start with the most abstract and gradually get more concrete.

The Argument from Abstract Objects

1. God provides the best explanation for the existence of abstract entities.{2} In addition to tangible, concrete objects like people and trees and chairs, philosophers have noticed that there also appear to be abstract objects, things like numbers, propositions, sets, and properties. These things have a sort of conceptual reality, rather like ideas in your mind. And yet it’s obvious that they’re not just ideas in any human mind. So what is the metaphysical foundation of such abstract entities? The theist has a plausible answer to that question. They are grounded in the mind of God. Alvin Plantinga, one of America’s foremost philosophers, explains:

It seems plausible to think of numbers as dependent upon or even constituted by intellectual activity. But there are too many of them to arise as a result of human intellectual activity. We should therefore think of them as… the concepts of an unlimited mind: a divine mind.{3}

At the most abstract level, then, theism provides a plausible, metaphysical foundation for the existence of abstract objects. And that’s the first reason why I think it’s plausible to believe in God.

The Cosmological Argument

2. God provides the best explanation for why the universe exists instead of nothing.{4} Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from, why anything at all exists, instead of just nothing? Well, typically atheists have said that the universe is eternal, and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute. If the universe never had a beginning, then that means that the number of past events is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the idea of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self- contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that actually exists in reality.

David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of this century, states, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought…. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea….”{5} But that entails that since past events are not just ideas in your mind but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can’t go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist.

This conclusion has been confirmed by a series of remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates the universe began to exist in a cataclysmic explosion known as the Big Bang 15 billion years ago. Physical space and time were created in that event, as well as all the matter and energy in the universe. Therefore, as the Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, the Big Bang theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. This is because, as you go back in time, you reach a point at which, in Hoyle’s words, the universe was “shrunk down to nothing at all.”{6} Thus, what the Big Bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.

No, this tends to be very awkward for the atheist. As Anthony Kenny of Oxford University says, “A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that….the universe came by nothing and from nothing.”{7} But that’s a pretty hard pill to swallow! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause that brought the universe into being. From the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. Isn’t it incredible that the Big Bang theory confirms what the Christian theist has always believed, that “In the beginning, God created the universe”?

Now I simply put it to you: which is more plausible?—That the Christian theist is right, or that the universe just popped into existence, uncaused, out of nothing? I, at least, don’t have any trouble assessing these probabilities.

The Teleological Argument

3. God provides the best explanation for the complex order in the universe.{8} During the last thirty years, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicately balanced set of initial conditions simply given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than life- permitting universes like ours. How much more probable? Well, before I give you an estimation, let me just give you some numbers to give you a feel for the odds. The number of seconds in the history of the universe is about 1018, that’s ten followed by eighteen zeros. The number of subatomic particles in the entire universe is about1080.

Now with those numbers in mind, consider the following. Donald Page, one of America’s eminent cosmologists, has calculated the odds of our universe existing as on the order of one chance out of 1010(123), a number which is so inconceivable that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement!{9}

Robert Jastrow, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has called this the most powerful evidence for the existence of God “ever to come out of science.”{10} Once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the Cosmos, seems to me to be much more plausible than the atheistic interpretation of chance.

The Moral Argument

4. God provides the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values in the world.{11} If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. For example, the late J.L. Mackie of Oxford University, one of the most influential atheists of our time, admitted, “If…there are…objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have a…defensible…argument from morality to the existence of a god.{12}

But in order to deny God’s existence, Mackie therefore denied that objective values exist. He wrote, “It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution.”{13} Professor Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph, agrees. He explains:

Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth…. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, [ethics] is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says, `Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves…. Nevertheless,… such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction,… and any deeper meaning is illusory….{14}
Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life. I think that Friedrich Nietzsche was right. But we’ve got to be very careful here. The question here is not, “Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives?” I’m not claiming that we must. Nor is the question, “Can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God?” I think that we can. Rather, the question is, “If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?” Like Mackie and Ruse, I just don’t see any reason to think that in the absence of God, the morality evolved by homo sapiens is objective. After all, if there is no God, then what’s so special about human beings? They’re just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on a infinitesimal speck of dust called the planet Earth, lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe, and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time.

On the atheistic view, some action, say, rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human evolution has become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really wrong. On the atheistic view, if you can escape the social consequences, there’s nothing really wrong with your raping someone. Thus, without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.

But the fact is that objective moral values do exist, and we all know it. There’s no more reason to deny the objective existence of moral values than to deny the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like rape, torture, and child abuse aren’t just socially unacceptable behavior. They’re moral abominations. Even Ruse himself admits, “The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says two plus two equals five.”{15} Some things are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good.

But if objective values cannot exist without God, and objective values do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.

The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth

5. God provides the best explanation for the historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.{16} The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. New Testament critics have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority, the authority to stand and speak in God’s place. That’s why the Jewish leadership instigated his crucifixion on the charge of blasphemy. He claimed that in himself the Kingdom of God had come and as visible demonstrations of this fact, he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms.

But the supreme confirmation of his claim was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands, and thus indirect evidence for the existence of God. Now there are three main historical facts that support the resurrection of Jesus: the empty tomb, Jesus’ appearances alive after his death, and the very origin of Christian faith. Let me look very briefly at each one of these.

The Empty Tomb

First, the evidence indicates that Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers on Sunday morning. According to Jacob Kremer, an Austrian scholar who has specialized in the study of the resurrection, “by far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the Biblical statements about the empty tomb.”{17} And he lists twenty-eight prominent scholars in support. I can think of at least sixteen more that he neglected to mention. According to the New Testament critic D. H. Van Daalen, “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds. Those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.”{18}

Jesus’ Appearances after His Death

Secondly, the evidence indicates that on separate occasions, different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the late Norman Perrin of the University of Chicago, “The more we investigate the traditions with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear on which they are based.”{19} These appearances were bodily and physical and were witnessed not only by believers, but also by skeptics, unbelievers, and even enemies.

The Origin of the Christian Faith

Thirdly, the very origin of the Christian faith implies the reality of the resurrection. We all know that Christianity sprang into being in the middle of the first century. Where did it come from? Why did it arise? Well, all scholars agree that Christianity came into being because the original disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and they proclaimed this message everywhere that they went. But where in the world did they come up with that outlandish belief?

If you deny that Jesus really did rise from the dead, then you’ve got to explain the origin of the disciples’ belief either in terms of Jewish influences or Christian influences. Obviously, it couldn’t have come from Christian influences for the simple reason that there wasn’t any Christianity yet! But neither can it be explained from the side of Jewish influences because the Jewish concept of resurrection was radically different than Jesus’ resurrection. As the reknowned New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias puts it, “Nowhere does one find in the literature [of ancient Judaism] anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus.”{20} The most plausible explanation of the origin of the disciples’ belief, therefore, is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

Attempts to explain away these three great facts, like “the disciples stole the body,” or “Jesus wasn’t really dead,” have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The simple fact is that there just is no plausible, naturalistic explanation of these facts. And therefore it seems to me that the Christian is amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who he claimed to be. But that entails that God exists.

The Experience of God

6. God can be immediately known and experienced.{21} This isn’t really an argument for God’s existence, rather it’s the claim that you can know God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by immediately experiencing Him. This was the way that people in the Bible knew God, as Professor John Hick explains:

God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills, a sheer, given reality, as inescapably to be reckoned with as destructive storm and life-giving sunshine…. They did not think of God as an inferred entity, but as an experienced reality…. To them God was not…an idea adopted by the mind, but the experiential reality which gave significance to their lives.{22}

Now if this is the case, arguments for God can actually distract our attention from God Himself. If you are sincerely seeking God, if this is not an intellectual game, then God will make His existence evident to you. The Bible promises, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We mustn’t so concentrate on the arguments that we fail to hear the inner voice of God to our own hearts. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.

Conclusion

So in conclusion, then, we’ve yet to see any arguments to show that God does not exist, and we have seen six reasons to think that God does exist. Together these constitute a powerful, cumulative case for the existence of God. If we are to believe atheism instead, then Dr. Washington is first going to have tear down all six of the reasons that I’ve presented in favor of God’s existence and then in their place erect a case of his own in favor of atheism. Unless and until he does that, I hope that we can agree that theism is the more plausible world view.”

(William Lane Craig)

Annotations

{1} What follows are thumbnail sketches of various arguments for the existence of God. These necessarily short summaries are but the tip of an iceberg: whole books have been written on each one of these arguments. To assist especially earnest students, I’ll list some suggested further reading for each one.

“The appeal to a reliable authority is legitimate, for the testimony of a reliable authority is evidence for the conclusion” (Ibid., p. 64). Thus, while a Hollywood starlet’s endorsement of a commercial product does not count as evidence, still the expert testimony of a DNA specialist concerning blood found at the scene of a crime does. When I quote recognized authorities like Hilbert, Page, Jeremias, and others concerning matters in their respective fields of expertise, this does count as expert testimony and, hence, evidence for the fact in question.

{2} Suggestions for further reading: Alvin Plantinga, “How to be an Anti-Realist,” American Philosophical Association Proceedings and Addresses (1982): 47-70; Brian Leftow, “A Leibnizian Cosmological Argument,” Philosophical Studies 57 (1989): 135-155; Quentin Smith, “The Conceptualist Argument for God’s Existence,” Faith and Philosophy 11 (1994): 38-49.

{3} Alvin Plantinga, “Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments,” lecture presented at the 33rd Annual Philosophy Conference, Wheaton College, October 23-25, 1986.

{4} Suggestions for further reading: William Lane Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument, Library of Philosophy and Religion (London: Macmillan, 1979); William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993; also several articles on this site at http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/exis.html.

{5} David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. Paul Benacerraf and Hilary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), p. 151.

{6} Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1975), p. 658.

{7} Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.

{8} Suggestions for further reading: John Leslie, Universes (London: Routledge, 1989); John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986); see also various articles on this site by John Leslie and William Lane Craig.

{9} See L. Stafford Betty and Bruce Cordell, “God and Modern Science: New Life for the Teleological Argument,” International Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1987): 416. Betty and Cordell actually report a smaller figure than Page’s, which is based on calculations by Roger Penrose, “Time Asymmetry and Quantum Gravity,” in Quantum Gravity 2, ed. C. J. Isham, R. Penrose, and D. W. Sciama (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 249.

{10} Robert Jastrow, “The Astronomer and God,” in The Intellectuals Speak Out about God, ed. Roy Abraham Varghese (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1984), p. 22.

{11} Suggestions for further reading: J. P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen, “Does It Matter that God Exists?” in Does God Exist? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), pp. 97-135; Robert Merrihew Adams, “Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief,” in Rationality and Religious Belief, ed. C. F. Delaney (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), pp. 116-140; William R. Sorley, Moral Values and the Idea of God, 3d ed. (New York: Macmillan Co., 1930).

{12} J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 115-116.

{13} Ibid., pp. 117-118.

{14} Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-269.

{15} Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (London: Addison-Wesley, 1982), p. 275.

{16} Suggestions for further reading: William Lane Craig, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” in Jesus Under Fire, ed. J. P. Moreland and Michael Wilkins (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995), pp. 141-176; William Lane Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 16 (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1989); see also various articles on this site at http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/hist.html.

{17} Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien–Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.

{18} D. H. Van Daalen, The Real Resurrection (London: Collins, 1972), p. 41.

{19} Norman Perrin, The Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), p. 80.

{20} Joachim Jeremias, “Die älteste Schicht der Osterüberlieferung,” in Resurrexit, ed. Edouard Dhanis (Rome: Editrice Libreria Vaticana, 1974), p. 194.

{21} Suggestions for further reading: Alvin Plantinga, “Is Belief in God Rational?” in Rationality and Religious Belief, ed. C. F. Delaney (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), pp. 7-27; Alvin Plantinga, “Reason and Belief in God,” in Faith and Rationality, ed. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), pp. 16-93; Alvin Plantinga, “Self-Profile,” in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James E. Tomberlin and Peter Van Inwagen, Profiles 5 (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1985), pp. 55-64; see also the articles by Plantinga, “Theism, Atheism, and Rationality” and “Intellectual Sophistication and Basic Belief in God.”

{22} John Hick, “Introduction,” in The Existence of God, ed. John Hick, Problems of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan Co., 1964), pp. 13-14.