Archive for March, 2011

With the Easter season quickly approaching, I thought it would be timely to post this 3rd part of the “IS” Articles series:

*Previous “IS” Articles can be located here (part 1) and here (part 2)*

We left off in the previous “IS” article with an exploration of the historical reliability of the New Testament. Based on the foundation of many of the previously mentioned arguments, respected historian R. T. France presents this summary point of view regarding the NT Gospels:

“We have seen above sufficient reason to be confident that the gospels not only claim to be presenting fact rather than fiction, but also, where they can be checked , carry conviction as the work of responsible and well-informed writers” (RT France as referenced by JP Moreland Scaling the Secular City) 

To further the summation of the case for the New Testament events being historical, scholar Luke Johnson at Emory University writes the following: “Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucifixion under the prefect Pontius Pilate and continued to have followers after his death” (Luke Johnson, referenced by William Lane Craig, Leader U resource Center)

Dr. Craig also presents these insights which can be utilized as a summary of our previous focus on the Gospels as “reliable” history: 1) There was insufficient time for legendary influences to expunge the historical facts. The interval of time between the events themselves and recording of them in the Gospels is too short to have allowed the memory of what had or had not actually happened to be erased (see I Cor. 15:3-4) 2) The gospels are not analogous to folk tales or contemporary “urban legends”(see Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3; 2 Peter 1:16a). 3) The Jewish transmission of sacred traditions was highly developed and reliable. In an oral culture like that of the first century Palestine the ability to memorize and retain large tracts of oral tradition was a highly prized and highly developed skill. From the earliest age children in the home, schools and the synagogue were taught to memorize faithfully sacred tradition. The disciples would have exercised similar care with the teachings of Jesus (we will explore this further along the lines of spiritual “help” for remembrance – John 14:26 ) 4) There were significant restraints on the embellishment of traditions about Jesus, such as the presence of eyewitnesses and the apostles’ supervision. Since those who had seen and heard Jesus continued to live and the tradition about Jesus remained under the supervision of the apostles, these factors would act as a natural check on tendencies to elaborate the facts in a direction contrary to that preserved by those who had known Jesus (see 2 Peter 1:16b) 5) The Gospel writers have a proven track record of historical reliability. Classical scholar Colin Hemer applied his knowledge and expertise to the New Testament studies in his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Hemer goes through the book of Acts with a fine-toothed comb, pulling out a wealth of historical  knowledge, ranging from what would have been common knowledge down to details which only a local person would know. Again and again Luke’s accuracy is demonstrated: from the sailings of the Alexandrian corn fleet to the coastal terrain of the Mediterranean islands to the peculiar titles of local officials, “Luke gets it right” (William Lane Craig, Leader U Resource Center)

Whereas the specifics of the story of Jesus cannot be “proven” in the purely scientific sense of the word, the normal historiography (or the science of historical investigation) arguments based on manuscript evidence, internal evidence, internal consistency, and time proximity when applied to the New Testament scriptures, overwhelmingly support the position that we have no reason to doubt their basic, historical credibility. Lest we’re skeptical of the importance of “history” when applied to the topic of verifying the activity or revelation of God to humanity, let’s be reminded that in a technical sense, any event which takes place in our time/space existence becomes “history” once the event is over. If Jesus’ cross and resurrection event took place last week, we would face most of the same questions about verification (Are there reliable witnesses? How many? How committed are they? Are the testimonies corroborating? What were their motives?).

The place of historicity of the New Testament scriptures for Christian apologetics is once again seen in the breakdown by Dr. Winfried Corduan. Simplified, it is: 1. The New Testament as history shows that… 2. …it is reasonable to believe in the deity of Christ, who… 3. …taught us to accept the Bible as the Word of God.

Moving on to numbers two and three, we will first turn to external (extra-biblical) evidence which bears witness that the earliest Christian believers worshiped Jesus as “divine.”

Extra-biblical friends of New Testament Christianity:

The Early Church “Fathers

The following is a list of examples of those known as the “Church Fathers,” their profession to believing in the “deity” of Christ, and the approximate dates of these professions:

  • Ignatius: “God Himself was manifested in human form”  (AD 105)
  • Clement: “It is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as of God” (AD 150)
  • Justin Martyr: “The Father of the universe has a Son. And He.. is even        God” (AD 160)
  • Irenaeus: “He is God, for the name Emmanuel indicates this” (AD 180)
  • Tertullian: “…Christ our God” (AD 200)
  • Origen: “No one should be offended that the savior is also God…” (AD 225)
  • Novatian: “…He is not only man, but God also…” (AD 235)
  • Cyprian: “Jesus Christ, our Lord and God” (AD 250)
  • Methodius: “…He truly was and is… with God, and being God…” (AD 290)
  • Lactantius: “We believe Him to be God” (AD 304)
  • Arnobius: “Christ performed all those miracles… the… duty of Divinity” (AD 305) *   **

*(from David Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 93-100, as referenced by Dr. Peter Jones, Cracking Da Vinci’s Code , 94)

**Something notable about the above collection of quotes is how it radically contradicts the fallacious idea promoted by author Dan Brown and the “DaVinci Code” conspiracy people that Constantine around AD 325 suddenly came up with the idea of “Jesus as Divine”

Extra-biblical “antagonists” of New Testament Christianity

The Talmud (AD 400-500 collection of writings by Jewish rabbis) states that “Yeshu” was put to death on “the eve of the Passover ” because he “practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy ” (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 107b as referenced by Edwin Yamauchi in Jesus Under Fire, eds Wilkins / Moreland 214)

Tacitus (in a passage written in 115) writes “Christians” named after the person “Christus”… “suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of… Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of evil, but even in Rome.” 

Pliny theYounger – governor of Bithynia in northwestern Turkey early in the second century – from a letter written about 111 to the emperor Trajan (AD 98-117) in reference to the blossoming of Christianity: “…they met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god ” (from Pliny the Younger, Letters, 10.96; as referenced by Dr. Edwin Yamauchi from Jesus Under Fire, op cit, 216).

The attestation of the N.T. scriptures and Jesus as divine

There have been those who will attempt to use the NT itself to marginalize Christians and their profession of the deity of Christ as being not only “placed upon him” but even “placed upon the NT” itself. The subjects below labeled “A” through “D” present evidences much to the contrary:

A. Usage of theos: NT and Greek language expert Dr. Murray J Harris (Ph.D., University of Manchester) catalogues the usage of the specific Greek word theos “God” in relation to Jesus in the New Testament. Based on the wording/structure of the Greek text, Harris notes the following verses present the case for theos being used in reference to Jesus: John 1:1; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1; John 1:18. Harris also notes that any concern the usage of theos is restrained can easily be attributed to the fact that the first century struggle was not against atheism/agnosticism, but was instead a counter to polytheism (Acts 17:22-23) and even docetism (John 4: 1-3). (Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in reference to Jesus, 271-273)

 B. The “I Am” Sayings (John 8:58-59; John 10:11)

 C.  Son of God, Son of Man, Christ, Lord (Matt. 16:13-17; Daniel 7:13-14; Isaiah 9:6-7)  

 D. Further Implications of Christ’s Life and Teachings

– He claimed to be one with the Father (John 10:30)

– He claimed to be sinless (John 8:46)

– He forgave all sins (Mark 2:5-12; Luke 24:45-47)

– He accepted proclamations such as “My Lord and My God” and accepted worship from people (John 20:28) (compare to Matt. 4:10; Rev.19:10)

– He claimed to have pre-existed and yet was clearly different from the “angels” (John 8:58; Matt. 13:41)

– He claimed He could grant eternal life (John 3:16; 5:39-40)

– He claimed authority over the Mosaic Law (Matt. 5:21-48; 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12)

– He said at the end of time He will judge the world (Matt. 25:31-33)

– He said we will be judged by how we have treated him (Matt. 25:31-46)

– He claimed to be the Messiah, and fulfilled numerous prophecies*(see below)  (Matt. 2:5-6; Luke 4:16-21; Zechariah 9:9 / Luke 19:28-31; John 19:24, 36-37)

– He performed miracles including raising the dead (John11), and ultimately rising from the dead himself* (* These two will be explored further along in this article)

 Keep in mind, all of this is in reference to a monotheistic Jew teaching monotheistic, Jewish Followers (Deut. 6:4)

The uniqueness of His claims

As Peter Kreeft asserts, there are people who have claimed to be God, but they are in insane asylums. Without giving in to overstatement, Christ’s unique claim of divinity compared to his reputation as a good (and sane) teacher is truly foundational to the standout characteristics of His identity. Whereas founders of particular religions which still exist today have the reputation of being “good / moral” individuals, wise teachers, or even prophets – none of them even made the same claims that were made by Jesus. Ravi Zacharias writes:

 “At the heart of every major religion is a leading exponent. As the exposition is studied, something very significant emerges. There comes a bifurcation, or a distinction, between the person and the teaching. Mohammed, to the Koran, Buddha, to the Noble Path. Krishna, to his philosophizing. Zoroaster, to his ethics. Whatever we may make of their claims, one reality is inescapable; They are teachers who point to their teaching or show some particular way. In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living. It is not Zoroaster to whom you turn, it is Zoroaster to whom you listen. It is not Buddha who delivers you, it is his Noble Truths that instruct you. It is not Mohammed who transforms you, it is the beauty of the Koran that woos you. By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was  identical with His Message. ‘In Him,’ say the scriptures, ‘dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily.’ He did not just proclaim the truth, He said ‘I am the truth.’ He did not just show a way, He said ‘I am the Way.’ He did not just open up vistas, He said ‘I am the door,’ ‘I am the Good Shepherd,’ ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ “I am the I AM.’ In Him is not just an offer of life’s bread. He is the bread. That is why being a Christian is not just a way of feeding and living. Following Christ begins with a way of relating and being”   (Ravi Zacharias: Jesus Among Other Gods, 89-90)        

The historicity of His death by crucifixion is seriously contested by relatively very few. The event is even spoken of by ancient secular sources. For the ancient culture in which Jesus lived, claims of Divinity is the only reasonable explanation (put in human terms) for Jesus’ crucifixion. As many have noted, including John Meier and Leander Keck (Yale University), holding that a good moral teacher, or wise sage would be crucified by capital Roman punishment is inexplicable and even ridiculous. As Keck writes, Jesus’ claims of “Son of God” divinity is the NT witness and is congruent with the charge of blasphemy and intense reaction. Insanity is an option, but an insane person wouldn’t have been a threat or had any kind of real following to the degree Jesus did during or after his death. C.S. Lewis’ famous “trilemma” – or “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” argument states “either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 56)

Let’s now look at two more indicators of Jesus Christ as Divine:

*The fulfillment of prophecy

The chances of one person fulfilling just a small percentage of the Old Testament prophecies are ridiculously improbable. Biblical Scholar John Phillips describes it in the following way:

 “It has been said that there were some 109 Old Testament detailed predictions literally fulfilled at Christ’s first coming, and that, of the 845 Quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament, 33 refer to Christ. There are some 25 prophecies concerning the betrayal, trial, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus uttered by various prophets over a period of some five hundred years. These were literally fulfilled although the chances again of such fulfillment have been shown to be one chance in 33,554,438. If the law of compound probabilities is applied similarly to all 109 predictions fulfilled at Christ’s first coming, the chances that they could accidentally be fulfilled in the history of one person is one in billions(John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures, 124, as referenced by Geisler / Hoffman op cit)

Barry Leventhal, a Jew turned Christian remarks about an experience he had when pondering why Isaiah 53 was so similar to Jesus. His local rabbi, responded to his inquiry by saying “Barry, I must admit that as I read Isaiah 53 it does seem to be talking about Jesus, but since we Jews do not believe in Jesus, it can’t be speaking about Jesus” (Barry R. Leventhal, from Why I Am a Christian, Geisler/Hoffman eds. op cit. 213)

The supreme miracle

Along with the claim of Divinity by this obviously sane and “good” teacher, we look now at what is known as the “supreme nature miracle.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is deemed to be not only the most documented “miracle” in ancient history, but it is perhaps also the most documented, verifiable event in all of ancient history. Dr. J.P. Moreland outlines what he describes as the “undisputable facts” of history surrounding Jesus’ death and the message of the resurrection:

Exhibit 1 – The Disciples died (or were severely tortured) for their Beliefs

Exhibit 2 – The Conversion of the Skeptics

Exhibit 3 – Changes to key Social Structures

Exhibit 4 – Communion and Baptism

Exhibit 5 – The Emergence of the Church

Keep in mind this person we are considering had more of an impact on the history of humanity than anyone who has ever lived. Yet, as Kreeft points out, he “never entered politics, never fought a battle, and never wrote a book. He lived in a backwater nation, never went more than one hundred miles from his home, and was executed by crucifixion as a dangerous criminal.” There have been moral teachers, wise sages, and even religious leaders who have taught some similar ideas. Why then, His impact on human kind? Simply put in historical terms: The claim of divinity and the historical, bodily resurrection.

W.L. Craig notes the following facts surrounding the death and resurrection event: Fact #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in the tomb. Fact #2: On the Sunday morning following the crucifixion, the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his women followers. Fact #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead. Fact #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus had risen from the dead despite their having every reason not to (The willingness for the disciples to take the “hard road” of the bodily resurrection as well as being willing to die for a hoax/stolen body, etc. extinguishes the possibility of them conspiring the event. What would be their motive? Personal suffering and death? If someone else stole the body we’re hard-pressed to explain the appearances)

What impact would poorly attested/evidenced “resurrection” stories have on our world?

Appolonius of Tyana: The one reported “appearance” was a “vision to a sleeping man in the year 273 , nearly two centuries after his death.”

Sabbatai Sevi: After his death in 1676, it was reported many years after his death that his brother found his tomb empty. Some refused to believe he had ever died. Whatever the case, it was never reported again that anyone had seen him.

Rabbi Judah: While the Rabbi died in 220, the first reference to his appearances came in the fifth century. There is only one witness cited, two centuries after he died. Imagine if someone in our time began proclaiming “George Washington rose from the dead – I saw him.”

Kabir: A 15th century religious leader, who, following his death in 1518, is said to have appeared to stop a Hindu/Muslim controversy.  J.C. Archer writes “Little or nothing is extant from contemporaries of Kabir. Some of his teachings may have been written down about fifty years after his death, but these contain nothing about a resurrection” (J.C. Archer, The Sikhs (50-53). As Gary Habermas notes “simply to report a miracle is not sufficient to establish it, especially if that miracle is going to be used to support a religious system” (Habermas; Resurrection claims, 177, as a referenced in ECA)

Compare the above “charlatans” to this summation of the record of Jesus’ resurrection, remembering that the NT scriptures have the strongest manuscript support of any comparable writings in ancient history, and how this event is also verified by its impact on all of history:

                                         Saw            Heard          Touched                 Other Evidence

1. Mary Mag.                          X                 X                   X                 empty tomb

    John 20:10-18

2. Mary/women                     X                 X                   X                empty tomb

     Matt. 28:1-10

3. Peter                                  X                  X                         empty tomb/clothes      

      I Cor. 15:5                                                                                      

4. Two Disciples                     X                 X                                        *ate with him

     Luke 24:13-35

5. Ten disciples                     X                X                **X         saw wounds/ate food

     Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23

6. Eleven disciples                X                X                **X                        saw wounds

     John 20:24-31

7. Seven disciples                 X                X                                                *ate food

       John 21

8.  All disciples                      X                X                                     commissioning

      Matt. 28:16-20

9.  500 brethren                  X                 X  

      I Cor. 15:6

10.  James                              X                 X  

         I Cor. 15:7

11.  All apostles                     X                 X                                  ate food/ascension  

        Acts 1:4-8

12. Paul                                   X                 X

       Acts 9:1-9; I Cor. 15:8

       *Implied                **Offered himself to be touched

Because the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so convincing people have even concocted borderline “silly” alternative explanations. Dr. W.L. Craig, while debating the subject on the resurrection of Jesus Christ with a professor at UC Irvine, was confronted with the hypothesis of Jesus having an “unknown identical twin brother who was separated from him at birth, came back to Jerusalem just at the time of the crucifixion, stole Jesus’ body out of the grave, and presented himself to the disciples” (Craig, Evidence for Jesus leader U).     

Let’s reflect again on this person: He made radically unique claims; His life fulfilled prophecies against monumentally significant odds of probability; His supreme resurrection miracle is the most attested event in all of ancient history in terms of comparable written documentation and the amount of reliable witnesses; His life has had more impact on recorded humanity than anyone else in history.

What is the record of what this “person” thought about our scriptures?

The Old Testament:

– Jesus referred to the Old Testament continuously, and spoke of it as being written “in the Spirit” and that it should be “believed” (Matt. 22:43-44; John 5:46-47).

– Jesus referred to the Old Testament scriptures as the “Word of God” and in doing so differentiated between the “Word of God” and traditions that were handed down (Mark 7:8-9, 13) (*Note that it is common for people to point out Jesus countered the “religious Pharisees” of his day. While this is true, note also that he did so by appealing to the authority of the word of God. Even His “turning the tables” action was an appeal to the “for it is written” authority of the Old Testament – Matt. 21:12-13)

– Jesus referred to the Old Testament scriptures as “divine authority and the final court of appeal” concerning all questions (Resurrection: Matt. 22:29-33) (Marriage: Matt. 19:4-5) (The Identity of the Messiah: John 5:39, 46; Luke 4:16-21; Luke 24:27, 44)

– Jesus referred to Old Testament people/events as being literal people, including Noah (Matt. 24:37-39) and Jonah (Matt. 12:39-41)

– Jesus quoted from the OT scriptures during his own spiritual trials (Matt. 4:1-11)

– Jesus specifically described what the Old Testament scriptures entailed (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51; Luke 24:27, 44 – Genesis through 2nd Chronicles was the order in which the OT books were placed during Jesus’ time)

The New Testament:

– Jesus spoke of the apostles as having a spiritually inspired memory (John 14:25-26; John 15:26). John 15:26 reveals the context of this as being those with Christ from the beginning. Peter affirmed Paul’s writings as scriptures (2 Peter 3:14-16). Writings without apostolic authority were rejected. Peter affirmed this issue of  inspiration/authority/eyewitnesses which applied to both the Old and New Testament writings (2 Peter 1:16-21), and contrasted it with that which is false (2 Peter 2:1-2).

John spoke of the serious consequences of adding / taking away from the inspired writings of an apostle (Rev. 22:18-19).

I could go on to elaborate on the survival and impact of the Bible in history. Bernard Ramm outlines the subject matter in the following way: a) Its survival through time b) Its survival through persecution c) Its survival through criticism d) Its influence on culture.

Thus, to accept the basic historicity of the New Testament is to 1) Accept Christ as Divine and 2) To accept the whole of the Bible as being inspired by God and authoritative. Of the many ways we can express our “reason” (I Peter 3:15) for accepting the Bible as the inspired Word of God, one of the ways we express it is simply by stating “because we affirm the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His authority over this matter.” 

Final conclusions

For the sake of balance, I’m going to end with a quote from Bernard Ramm regarding the role of apologetics in Christian life. Interestingly, Bernard Ramm is a Christian theologian my father had the privilege of personally studying under during his time in seminary. Dr. Ramm states:

“If one could be reasoned into faith, then Christianity would have sacrificed its moral and spiritual dimension. But if there were no evidences at all, then our faith could not be differentiated from gullibility. Because Christianity is in part an historical and in part a spiritual decision, Pascal reasoned that God gave enough evidences to satisfy the mind of the man whose heart was surrendered to Christ, but not enough to tempt a man into Christianity by pure reason alone…Christian evidences posses a strong witness value. They are arrows pointing toward the truth; they are credentials for Christian doctrines; they inform the unbeliever that although Christianity is of the heart, it does not ask for stultification of the intellect” (Dr. Bernard Ramm; Protestant Christian Evidences, 251)

Now, if you haven’t yet, be challenged to make the most important decision of your life. Take the step of faith to repent of sin and personally trust Jesus Christ as your Savior and “Lord.” The name “Jesus” (Grk yesous, Heb. yeshua) means “Savior.” Know for certain that He died and rose to “save” people from their sins (Matt. 1:21; Luke 24:45-48) 

Here’s some guidance on making that decision.

Also, here’s another way of putting it.

Sources:

J.P. Moreland; Scaling the Secular City

Michael Wilkins / JP Moreland eds. Jesus Under Fire

Ravi Zacharias: Jesus Among Other Gods

Murray Harris: Jesus as God

Dr. Peter Jones: Cracking Da Vinci’s Code

Norman Geisler ed.: Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

Norman Geisler /Hoffman eds.: Why I am a Christian

William Lane Craig: The Evidences for Jesus

Bernard Ramm: Protestant Christian Evidences

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I wrote previously about an informative event at the Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa. I did not locate the C-SPAN coverage of the event that night, but our friends at the Faith and Freedom Coalition have provided a link to watch the event on the CSPAN video library. You can watch it by going right here. I have not personally had a chance to watch it yet, so, like with everything, watch with prayerful discernment. I’m certain most know that my personal convictions are distinctly “pro-life” and pro “traditional marriage” (although that by no means completely defines my own “pro” convictions : )).

This Sunday (March 20 @ 10:15am worship) at Cornerstone Community Church in Chariton, Iowa (120 Northwestern Ave – 641-774-5683) we will have a very special presentation of the recent Mission Team trip to Malawi (Africa). I’ve already heard some great reports, and I’m looking forward to hearing more. You might know that our Africa trips are connected with Gospelink, which is a Christian para-church organization.

GL is committed to meeting various needs in the name of Jesus Christ in several nations in the continent of Africa and elsewhere. Concerning spiritual needs, Gospelink has the vision to provide as many people as possible the opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ and to help them grow spiritually. As noted on their website, it’s estimated that between 15 – 25% of the world’s population is currently beyond the proclamation of the Gospel message. Of the world’s 6.8 billion people, there are over 1.2 Muslims; 1.o2 billion who claim to be non-religious; over 800 million Hindus, and 775 million Buddhists and followers of Eastern religions. By their own profession, the followers of these religions do not recognize Jesus as the Way (John 14:6), and hence, do not have a saving “justification” through Him. Gospelink is committed to raising up national, indigenous preachers to minister in places that are closed to the traditional, western missionary. Mission trips through Gospelink include the encouragment and support of national preachers, as well as working first-hand to witness and minister to people in the sponsored countries. The first nations Gospelink sponsored were Zambia,

Zimbabwe, and Malawi. In the year 2000, GL expanded to include Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and in 2002, the work also moved to Mozambique. In 2003, Gospelink began helping national preachers in Russia and Ukraine. In 2005, the construction of the International Bible College began in Kazemba, Zambia. In 2007, the work of assisting indigenous pastors in Ethiopia and Vietnam started. That same year was the beginning of the Malawi Agricultural Training Center which assists with hunger relief and equipping. It’s amazing that through GL’s multiplication of indigenous pastors – since 1998 roughly 5 million people have come to Christ. The recent trip of the Cornerstone team included building numerous wells for people groups who were without healthy drinking water. As trip leader LaVerne Tueth describes, there are numerous wells which could be functional in these areas if there was just the know-how, tools, and willingness to fix them. This is a significant part of what the Cornerstone team accomplished while in Malawi. This “safari” – of sorts – brought with it the “living” water of Jesus Christ, as well as literal water for drinking. With eyes of faith remaining open to see what God desires to do through us, there is much which can be accomplished for Christ through His willing followers.  

Along with a vision for work throughout the world, there is much that can be accomplished right here in our own locale. There are people everywhere with needs, and along with the physical needs there is the universal need of Christ’s love, hope, peace, and eternal salvation. Concerning our current emphasis, know that there is still time to give “outside the box” directly to Gospelink, as well as to Cornerstone missions.

Just two summers ago I was in Zambia and I can personally attest to how God is using Gospelink to reach and change lives. People can also give of themselves to reach others for Christ and express Christ’s love somewhere today in the vicinity of where they live.  Go today, and God will use you as you’re willing to be sent. “Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'” (Isaiah 6:8 NKJV)

Your Fellow Servant in Christ,

-Pastor Eric

 1 – 5 -4  The Big Charge until Jesus returns:

1 Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)

5 Functions (Evangelism – Worship – Discipleship – Fellowship – Ministry)

4 Results1) Numerical Growth (God’s increase of His church – Acts 2:47; Acts 4:4; I Cor. 3:7) 2) Spiritual Transformation (God’s work of changing a believer – Rom. 12:1-2) 3) Ministry Expansion (Transformed believers with new ministries – Rom. 12:6-8) 4) Kingdom Advance (God’s constant work, expanded around the world – Acts 13:1-3)

Here is the most recent update from our friends at the Faith and Freedom Coalition: 

HF 153 AND HF 5 WILL MOVE

HF 153 did die in the funnel but will be brought back to life as an amendment to HF 439.  On Wednesday, March 16, a subcommittee of the House Government Oversight Committee will meet to consider HF 439 which is “an act relating to reporting of waivers granted from abortion notification requirements for pregnant minors.”  Although we support the intent of this bill, it does nothing to prevent abortion from happening.  We believe it will be amended in subcommittee, either by substitution or inclusion with the language of HF 153, stating that life begins at conception.  Rep. Kim Pearson (R), the author of HF 439 and HF 153, will chair the subcommittee.  Rep. Dawn Pettengill (R) and Rep. Janet Petersen (D) are the other members of the subcommittee. 

After passing the subcommittee with the new language, HF 439 will go back to the full committee where we believe it will receive approval.  It will then be placed on the calendar for further action by the House. 

 HF 5 will be discussed by another Oversight subcommittee on Thursday, March 17th.  Rep. Chris Hagenow (R) will chair the subcommittee.  Rep. Chip Baltimore (R) and Rep. Janet Petersen (D) complete the subcommittee.  We expect HF 5 to pass out of the sub and the full committee with little or no changes.

Both bills will be placed on the House calendar as committee bills.  We are hoping they will be put up for debate shortly thereafter.

Several of the above committee members can be reached by going here.

I’m certain many others are as burdened about this recent tragedy as I am. I’m thankful to have found out that people connected with our church (extended family and friends) are, as far as we know, ok (someone sent me this “before and after” link, which is quite sobering). There are many good channels to give to in support of relief efforts. I’m going to go ahead and post a couple of links here:

Here is one

Here is another

Here is yet another

Here is still yet another

Give as God leads.

-Pastor Eric Hann

Jonah: Born (not) to Run

Posted: March 9, 2011 by pastorerichann in Bible Studies / Helps, Church, Theology

During Sunday morning worship (10:15am) here at Cornerstone in Chariton, Iowa, we’ve started a series in the Old Testament book of Jonah entitled “Accepting Your Mission.” I’ve personally been praying through the themes of the book, and I’m trusting God that He will use this focus on its timely, poignant messages for His purposes. The following is some background material which may be helpful to some to shed additional light for further study, contemplation, and examination:

From Bible scholar John D. Hannah:  “The record of Jonah’s episode and mission to Nineveh was addressed to Israel. The book was written not simply to record a historical narrative’ – in addition it conveyed a message to the Northern Kingdom.  Also, in one sense Jonah is not the principal person in the book; God is. The Lord has the first word (Jonah 1:1-2) and the last 4:11)” … “One apparent message to Israel is God’s concern for Gentile people. The Lord’s love for the souls of all people was supposed to be mediated through Israel, God’s elect and covenant nation. Through Israel the blessing of His compassion was to be preached to the nations (Isa. 49:3). The book of Jonah was a reminder to Israel of her missionary purpose” (John D. Hannah, B.S., Th.M., Th.D quoted from “The Bible Knowledge Commentary” eds. John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck – SP Publications, Wheaton, Illinois 1978 pp. 1461-1462)

From Bible scholar H.L. Ellison: “‘The great city of Nineveh’ goes back to early postdiluvian days (Gen. 10:11); archaeologists date the oldest of the discovered remains about 4500 B.C. Though it was not always the capital city of Assyria, Nineveh was always one of its principal towns. In light of 4:11, it might be better to translate ‘great city’ as ‘big city’; for it is the number of its inhabitants that is being stressed” … “‘Preach against it’ has a shade of meaning that is not justified by the Hebrew. Probably JB has caught the sense best by ‘inform them that their wickedness has become known to me.'” “… Apparently ‘Tarshish’ comes from a Semitic root meaning ‘to smelt’; so there were a number of places involved in the mineral trade with this name on the Mediterranean coast. It is highly probable that the most distant of them, Tartessus in Spain, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, is intended” (H.L. Ellison B.A., B.D., Kings College, London as quoted from “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,” Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Zondervan Pub. Grand Rapids, Mich. 1985 p. 368 – 369)

From Bible scholar Frank S. Page: “Archaeology confirms the biblical witness to the wickedness of the Assyrians. They were well known in the ancient world for brutality and cruelty. Ashurbanipal, the grandson of Sennacherib, was accustomed to tearing off the lips and hands of his victims. Tiglath-Pilesar flayed victims alive and made great piles of their skulls. Jonah’s reluctance to travel to Nineveh may have been due to its infamous violence.” … “While the issue of personal safety may have been a factor, it certainly was not the predominant one. The reason for Jonah’s disobedience in flight, while not given in this verse, is explicitly stated by the author in 4:2. The issue was fear – fear that the Ninevites might repent and be spared the disaster they deserved.” … “Some think that Jonah’s fear of repentance from Nineveh was based on his belief that a spared Nineveh would eventually mean the destruction of Israel” …” Thus perhaps Jonah, in an act of rebellion and disobedience, had the capacity to second guess God’s plan. But like many through the ages who have sought to thwart God’s plans, Jonah was to learn by experience that such actions are ill-advised” … (concerning Jonah asleep) “Commentators point to the extreme emotional exhaustion and depression that is inevitable when a person directly rebels against the revealed will of the Lord”… “Some have taken the expression ‘from before (Heb. millipne) Yahweh’ to indicate that Jonah believed it possible to escape God’s presence. Many other Old Testament passages prior to Jonah’s time, however, show conclusively that the Hebrew did not think of Yahweh as a local deity, and Jonah himself in v.9 confesses his belief in the Lord’s universality as Creator. The clearest passage denying the possibility of escape from (or being lost by) the Lord is Psalm 139, especially v. 7 (which uses an almost identical expression): ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence (Heb. mippaneyka)?’ What does it mean, therefore, to go ‘away from the LORD’? In Gen. 4:16 the expression (millipne) is used to describe Cain’s broken relationship with the Lord – his rebellion against the Lord and the Lord’s displeasure with him. D. Alexander suggests that we interpret the phrase in light of its use in the expression to ‘stand before (lipne) the LORD,’ which is an idiom used of being in the Lord’s service (cf. I Kgs 17:1; 18:15; Jer. 15:19). ‘By fleeing from the Lord’s presence Jonah announces emphatically his unwillingness to serve God. His action is nothing less than open rebellion against God’s sovereignty'” … “Jonah thought he could just walk away from a divine assignment. But the Lord was to make Jonah’s voyage into a ‘teachable moment'”  (Frank S. Page Ph. D. as quoted from The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Broadman and Holman Pub. 1995 pp 227-229, 231, 233; Also includes quote from T.D. Alexander, “Jonah” TOTC, Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988, p.101) 

From expositor and pastor Harold Ironside: “No spiritually minded person can read it (Jonah) without discerning the fact that Jonah’s whole history, or at least that part of it here recorded for our instruction, is in itself a prophecy, setting forth, as it does, the course of Israel, of whom Jonah was a type, or picture, and likewise exhibiting beforehand the wondrous mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection” … “Unquestionably, the great theme of this book is the divine sovereignty. The expressions ‘the Lord prepared’ and ‘God prepared,’ frequently repeated, would manifest this. Throughout, however man may plan, and whatever he may attempt, it is God who is over all, and working all things in such a way as to bring glory to His own name” … “Like the nation for whom he stands, Jonah was called to be the bearer of a message from God to the Gentiles. Israel had been separated from the nations, not to dwell in a cold, formal exclusiveness, in utter indifference to the fate of the people about them, but to be a light in a dark world, making known the mind of God and manifesting the character of Jehovah to those who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. In Jonah’s subsequent history we see a picture their failure in this respect, and the disasters that came upon them because of that failure, as also the foreshadowing of the day when, restored and brought again into blessing, they will once more be entrusted with a commission from the Most High” … “evidently he, himself, it is who narrates, for our learning, the experiences he had undergone; but the very manner of the relation of them manifests the fact that it is as a recovered and chastened man he does so” … “He simply lets us know something of his own pride and self-will, and the manner taken by the Lord to humble and bring him into touch with Him once more” … “To get away from the pathway of obedience is invariably to go out from the presence of the Lord; that is, so far as the reality of it is concerned in one’s own soul. Actually, it would be impossible to get where the eye of God was not upon him; but in his own consciousness of communion and enjoyment, the moment that Jonah made up his mind to act in disobedience, he lost the sense of the Lord’s presence in his soul” (Harold Ironside Litt. D; D.D. Notes on the Minor Prophets, Loizeux Bothers, Inc. Neptune, N.J.; first ed. 1909; twentieth printing 1983 – pp. 193 – 200)

From expositor Warren Wiersbe: “The book of Jonah is about the will of God and how to respond to it. It’s also about the love of God and how we share it with others” … “(Jonah) had the wrong attitude toward the Word of God. When the Word of the Lord came to him, Jonah thought he could ‘take it or leave it.’ However, when God’s Word commands us, we must listen and obey. Disobedience isn’t an option – ‘But why do you call Me’ Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?’ (Luke 6:46, NKJV)” … “Jonah forgot that it was a great privilege to be a prophet, to hear God’s Word, and know God’s will. That’s why he resigned his prophetic office and fled in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Jonah knew that he couldn’t run away from God’s presence (Ps. 139:7-12), but he felt he had the right to turn in his resignation” … “At one time or another during their ministries, Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah felt like giving up, but God wouldn’t let them. Jonah needed Nineveh as much as Nineveh needed Jonah. It’s in doing the will of God that we grow in grace and become more like Christ” … “Jonah the rebel suffers for his sins” – “for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6, NKJV) …”Jonah could say with the Psalmist, ‘The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death” (Ps. 118:18)… “Jonah also lost his spiritual energy (v. 5b). He went to sleep during a fierce storm and was totally unconcerned about the safety of others. The sailors were throwing the ship’s wares and cargo overboard, and Jonah was about to lose everything, but still he slept on. ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come upon you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man'” (Prov. 24:33, NIV) (Dr. Warren Wiersbe; “Be Amazed” Old Testament Study – Selected Minor Prophets; Victor Books 1996 pp. 71-76

Again from H.L. Ellison: “… while in one way the fish is secondary in the revelation to Jonah, it was needed for the prophet to grasp that God’s love is operative in a world that is entirely under divine control, however hostile it may be to him (cf. Rom. 8:28) … “ (H.L. Ellison B.A., B.D., Kings College, London as quoted from “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,” Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Zondervan Pub. Grand Rapids, Mich. 1985 p. 375)

“On ‘three days and three nights,’ Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (c. AD 100) said, ‘A day and a night make an ‘onah (i.e, a twenty-four-hour period), and the portion of an ‘onah is reckoned as a complete ‘onah” (j Shabbath 9.12a). This shows how these terms were used in Jesus’ time, and there is no reason for thinking that this had not been the understanding of the phrase ‘a day and a night’ all along. The difficulty some find in reconciling the expression ‘three days and three nights’ with the time of Jesus’ body was in the grave comes from undue concern with clock time” (as footnoted from H.L. Ellison B.A., B.D., Kings College, London as quoted from “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,” Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Zondervan Pub. Grand Rapids, Mich. 1985 p. 375)

Examination Extracts from Jonah 1:1-17:        

– In what ways have I given into the temptation to forget that no sin goes unnoticed by God? (Ecc. 12:14; Luke 12:2) Are there some “Ninevehs” in my world that I really think God is ignoring? What about my own sins? (Ps. 19:12)

– Are there some things God has called me to do about the “Ninevehs” of my world? (Matt. 9:36-38) Have I obeyed immediately? After some time? Rarely? Never?

– Are there some ways I’ve deceived myself into thinking I can really “run” from God? (or maybe better put, run from God’s will, calling, service, and intimate fellowship within the framework of all of these?) What are some ways I’ve tried to utilize “escapism” as a means of hiding from the challenge of God’s will? In what ways have I tried to go “against the grain” of my identity in Christ? (Philippians 3:17-21) If I search my heart – do I actually find there that I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing (and not doing) and exactly what God thinks about it? (Jonah 1:10, 12; Romans 1:18-21) Will I surrender today to do it? (Luke 9:57-62)

– Am I sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit in my life to view certain “storms” as “teachable moments” in my relationship with God? (Hebrews 12:5-11). What are some unexpected means God has used (or might currently be using) to “deliver” me from my waywardness? Will I surrender to God’s plan for me today?

IOOOWA study – Does Rob Bell Exist?

Posted: March 8, 2011 by pastorerichann in Apologetics, Philosophy
Tags: , ,

have you ever thought about the possibility that rob bell, himself, doesn’t exist?

i mean, how do we really know?

even if people have met him, and then they tell me he exists, can i trust the veracity of their witness?

have you ever thought that maybe they’re only speaking metaphorically?

could it be they only mean that the hyperbolic concept of rob bell exists, whereas the literal person doesn’t?

even if i met him personally, and shook his hand, is it possible that i shouldn’t even trust my own senses?

if i dogmatically hold to the literal existence of rob bell, am i worshipping the god of empiricism?

if rob bell doesn’t really exist, is it possible that the whole emergent, rob bell era of nebulous thinking patterns isn’t real – but merely a strange nightmare of some sort?

isn’t postmodernism fun?

i know i think so