Tag Archives: Atheists

Circumstantial Resurrection Evidence Even An Atheist Cannot Refute

The resurrection marked the beginning of a new era. It’s an announcement of a new age. It declares that the cross was a victory, not a defeat. This is based on some compelling circumstantial facts. Peter said: Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Consider the facts.

It’s a fact that there are at least 13 different post resurrection accounts in the Bible. And even though there are some differences in the resurrection accounts (they don’t fit snugly together), these surface discrepancies do not mean that someone has it wrong; rather, they mean that the witnesses have not been in collusion. The Gospel writers did not get together and try to ensure that they were all saying the same thing. They did not modify their stories for agreement, which lends itself to the authenticity of the accounts.

It’s a fact that over 500 people saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion / resurrection, many of whom could still be interviewed (1 Cor. 15).These were people beyond the Biblical writers who could be consulted and interviewed. Not just one person saw him, but evidently groups of people saw Him. Paul squelches individual hallucination theories; Christ appeared to groups of people.

It’s a fact that even skeptics saw him and acknowledged him. Thomas, a disciple, actually doubted and refused to believe it, unless he saw with his own eyes. He did, and ascribed deity to Jesus in his exclamatory remark when He actually saw him alive. “My Lord, and my God…” And for those who are still skeptical, how do you explain the conversion of Paul, who was passionate about persecuting Christians, but who was transformed into a church planter – outside of something cataclysmic like the resurrection?

It’s a fact that the women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Why did they have the women as first witnesses? Because it’s exactly what happened. At first, even the disciples had some doubt and the women were like, “Guys, just go down the street and look for your selves.” They did and we have never been the same. You would never include women as your primary first witnesses in the first century. In fact, Paul quietly drops the women as primary witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15, probably because of this cultural taboo. Including women as primary witnesses is literary suicide if you want your account believed. Yet, they still stuck with it, took the hit on their book sales so to speak, and told the story as it actually happened.

It’s a fact that there are secular Jewish sources admitting Jesus’ existence, that place him where he’s supposed to have been during the time frame of the first century.

It’s a fact that the timid apostles, now turned bold after the resurrection, even died for this belief. The changed lives of Jesus’ followers, despite extensive suffering, are a fact. It was after all of these personal encounters with Jesus that their lives were changed. Peter, the frightened deserter became Peter, the evangelist, only a few weeks after the resurrection. James the traditional Jew became James the welcomer of the marginalized Gentiles. Saul the church-destroyer became Paul the church-planter. These men maintained down to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and He’s Lord and that we must know Him.

It’s a fact that Christianity had a gigantic rise in growth (it went from Jerusalem to Rome in about 20 years), an almost unexplainable phenomenon, without some momentous event that fueled its growth. And there were key social structure changes in the lives of those who affirmed the resurrection of Christ. Many former Jews, now Christians, ceased to offer sacrifices, even though this was something they had done in their culture for generations. They stopped keeping the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law. The day of worship changed from Saturday to Sunday for many of them. Distinct Trinitarian beliefs began to be talked about as they realized the deity of Christ and how that impacted one’s view of God. They stopped looking for a Messiah; he had already come. They no longer felt at home in their synagogues, so they began to meet in people’s homes.

The resurrection is a well substantiated historic fact, with much circumstantial evidence to support it. And if this happened, as I believe it did, then Christ is who he said He was and his picture of God is accurate.

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30 Days to Live – Born February 22, 1968 – Died January 31, 2009 | How will you live your dash?

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” –Randy Pausch

Those words were spoken by a guy whose book I recently read entitled, The Last Lecture. Doctors estimated that Randy Pausch had three to six months of good health remaining. He didn’t waste those remaining months. He spent time with family, with friends and with colleagues. And he wrote a book.

The Last Lecture is a collection of life’s lessons and reflections, by a man with just a short time to live. Ironically enough, his book is more about living than dying. He talked about the importance of overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment, because in his case, life had to be squeezed into just a few short months and ten cancerous tumors in his liver were not going to cheat him of even 10 minutes that he had left.

Many college professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to ruminate on what matters most to them as a professor and as a human-being. They are invited to talk about their lives and the life lessons. Carnegie Mellon invited Pausch to do the same, and Pausch’s lecture became a book.

In preparation for a lecture series that I’m doing called “30 Days to Live”, I’ve been living as if it’s my last 30 days.

What if you had only 30 days to live? How would you live? Who would you want to be with? What would you like to say to them? Where would you like to go? What would you like to do? Would you modify your weekly schedule to allow for more together time? Would you still watch the same amount of television? Would you still fret over the same tit-for-tat stuff, hold grudges or get bitter? Would life’s little irritations even matter to you? Would you talk to God more? Would you admit that He existed? Would you go to church more? Would you spend your money differently? Would you follow through with your good intentions? Would you need to connect with a family member that you had distanced yourself from? Is there an apology that you would need to make? If you had only 30 days to live what unfinished business would you need to take care of? Is there a son that you need to call? Is there a daughter that you need to hug? Is there a parent you need to sit down with? Is there an issue that you need to resolve? If you had 30 days to live, how would you live? Are there habits that you would give up? Are there lifestyle changes that you would make? Is there a letter that you would have to write? Is there a task that you would need to do? Between your date of birth and your date of death is a dash. This post is about that dash and about the lecture you leave behind while you live.

After reading Pausch’s brief book, I couldn’t help but think about the last talk, post, or lecture that I would be forced to give some day. And since I only have less than 30 days to live (at least, that’s how I am living these days though no diagnosis has been given to the contrary and I’m healthy so far as I know), I had better go ahead and write about a few things that I need to share, something to remember my life by and to get communicated what I need to say to the people I love. What would my last lecture sound like assuming that I only had 30 days to live?

1. Live in the present moment. Savor your days and simple things. If I have any regrets in life, it would be this one – that I always looked ahead to the next thing without fully enjoying the moment. I don’t know where my 20’s went. My 30’s are just a blur. My 40’s are just beginning and I want to savor every moment.

2. Read and learn as much as you can. Learn like you’ll be here forever but live like it’s your last day. Be a student of the Bible because in it we encounter God.

3. Develop and live by a biblical, Christian worldview, knowing what you believe and why and how Christianity is true. Don’t ever abandon the faith. The Gospel is true and is the hope of the world. Christianity answers the deeper questions of life like no other belief system in the world. Where we came from, why we’re here, what life’s purpose is, what went wrong in the world, what God is doing to fix it, why the bible is so special, what God eventually does to resolved suffering and evil, and how we know there is life after death – all of these questions are so ably addressed by a Christian worldview. No matter what happens, don’t abandon the faith. Christian Theism is defensible and the resurrection changes every thing.

4. Love your spouse with a mature love. Allow all of your learning and growth in life to translate into a love for your lover, where mistakes can be talked about and true intimacy can be achieved. I want to thank my wife for all that she has given to me over the years, so selfless in caring for children, allowing me to pursue degrees, and setting me up to enjoy daily life. Donnette, I have to say thank you and please live your life knowing that you were loved, even though my own selfishness seemed to indicate otherwise and hindered me from understanding how love was supposed to work. I offer my sincerest apologies for inflicting hurt. I also want you to know that my happiest memories in life have you somewhere in the picture or on the slide of life. College, career, moving, graduate school, children, and life transitions – you are in all of them. The dates, the baby’s first cry, the first job after college, the Christmas mornings, the trips home to see family, the great dinners, the songs sung, the little moments of humor and silliness – only you babe.

5. Be absolutely crazy over your children. Don’t placate or pamper them. Shoot straight and let them feel the consequences of their actions. But be the safest place in the world for them to go to talk about anything and everything in life. Have no “off-limits” topics. Talk about anatomy to theology to just plain old life and be fully there when you talk. Tell them what is important to you. Make it clear how they can live their own life, but that if they wanted to honor you as a parent, how best to go about that.

Megan, I love your ways, so considerate and kind. I love how you laugh when you’re really tickled. I love your curly hair, to see you lost in a great story, to hear the word “Dad” mid-sentence to just make sure I’m still there and plugged in to what you are telling me. You are wise in so many ways, a lover of music, and passionate for animals and left-out people. I absolutely adore your artwork and sketches. You be a work of art; make life beautiful with whatever you are given to work with. My sense is that you will graduate from IWU someday, get married, have a family, all the while, creating, sketching, painting some of the most beautiful things one could imagine.

Will, you have no idea how much you mean to me. You are quiet, yet so fun loving and ornery. You are a man I will always respect, for getting on the mat and wrestling for something you believe in. As you get older, you are looking more like I looked when I was your age. You don’t have to achieve anything for me to love you any more than I do. God has given you the ability to process your thoughts slowly, deeply, and thoroughly. When it’s all done, I love hearing what you have to say. Your love for the outdoors, for adventure, for the mountains and rivers, pulls me back to my roots and primal instincts. God has given you the gift of appreciating His nature gifts and living from them. When you kayak tour and hike and climb and travel and experience all of this, know that I will always be in those moments with you. My sense is that you would love to see the world and that college and/or the military or a career will be the vehicle that takes you along this path. In all your journeys, there will be one cheering for you as you explore and lead a God-honoring life.

Levi, I could not imagine life without you. God has given you some great abilities and I want you to use everyone of them for Him. Honor God with your life. Really enjoy knowing and loving Him through your gifts. Is there anything more honoring to God than that? My sense is that you’ll go to a Big Ten school, study engineering, play a sport, and build that home for unwed mothers that we’ve talked about someday. Whatever you do, use your words, sharp intellect and athletic ability to honor God and win great victories for His kingdom. You honor your mother. And when people want to know what you attribute to your life success, you tell them that there was this little 5 foot tall woman who fixed the greatest meals in the world, invested so much time in your upbringing, and who showed you how to be tender and kind.

6. Always partner with a local church, serving others in the community, helping to reclaim a fallen creation, fulfilling the cultural mandate to steward the creation as well as to make disciples of Jesus. My mother wrote in her journal that her one great wish for all her family would be that all of her children would be a part of a local church all their lives. “Mom, here I am, leading one. I have championed that which you so deeply have believed in.” The church is the hope of the world when it’s working right. I would also add that I appreciate my immediate family, my brothers and sister. You always carry your family with you. There probably isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t recall some memory or experience that you had as a child with your family. Randy, Becky, Jeff, and Rob (and your families), remember our mothers request and legacy. May the family circle be unbroken when we are all together once again.

7. Cultivate a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t become a “religionist.” Follow Christ with passion, go against the cultural tide if you have to, and make Him your greatest pleasure. Do life as he asked us to do it.

8. Have a passion in life that you care deeply about. Don’t worry about what other people think. Live from your passion, always showing gratitude for those who help you along the way.

Sitting around the table a few days ago and thinking about these things, I asked the kids, “If you only had 30 days to live, what would you do and who would you do it with?” The consensus was that they would want to do things with their immediate and extended family. But the specifics of what they wanted to do varied. (I give these is grocery list fashion)

Levi, would want to take in a Colts game. Visit the 5 places he would like to go to the most (California, NYC, Hawaii, Alaska, and Dallas.) Experience 0 gravity. Go to Cedar Point one more time. Help all abused dogs. Go to a BCS football game. Go to Michigan Wolverines football game with uncles and cousins. Try the worlds hottest pepper and get on the wall of flame at Wings Etc. See Dad run a NFL play or catch a pass in a game. Visit all Big Ten Stadiums. Solve a Rubik’s Cube.

Will would visit the Grand Tetons and the Boundary Waters and go to WV to kayak with the dogs.

Megan would adopt some death-row dogs and donate her money to the Humane Society. Hug everyone she cared about. Stay in a cabin in the mountains. Eat as much as she wanted. Would not exercise.

Donnette would go to KC and spend time with family there. Spend time with parents in Quincy, IL. Go to Israel and Ireland with family. Teach her kids how to make a few of their favorite recipe’s. Make a CD at Gaither Studios with encouraging songs, songs about being faithful, loving God and then donate CD’s to prisoners, crisis pregnancy centers, nursing homes and others needing encouragement. Somehow be able to share her heart on a big scale with her nation for the burden she carries for them. Tell them to look to God’s Word on the key issues like family, sex, faith, abortion. Go buy a beautiful dress and not worry about the cost. Then go have dinner and attend an outdoor concert with me in KC or Colorado. She would hope that she wouldn’t have to do any grocery shopping or laundry.

I would take half a month and see the world with my family: tour Jerusalem and sail the Sea of Galilee; sat down for lunch in Greece and stand in the amphitheater of Rome; fly over the Swiss Alps and stay in a mountain lodge; visit a few key stops on Paul’s missionary journeys; spend time with a C.S Lewis guide in England and see his home, Oxford office, and pub he lunched in; do Alaska and Australia and European villages and towns. I would show my kids how to use my library and write books with it. Take some time for extended family and church family friends and any atheist friends who would care to talk about the deeper spiritual questions. Spend a day or so with children who are not expected to live very long. I have no desire to ride a bull, jump out of a plane, or visit a celebrity. I would spend the next 15 days or so at home with the people I love, sharing my thoughts, appreciating the moment. Last meal: Donnette’s homemade pizza.

Randy Pausch, Born: October 23, 1960 – Died: July 25, 2008. He was 47. Joey Nelson, Born: February 22, 1968 – Died: January 31, 2009. He was 40 years old. How will you live your dash?

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Pornography – A Thirsty Person Craving Salt

I like Frederick Buechner’s words: “Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.” Pornography only creates more thirst, and quenches nothing, damaging our ability to be intimate with anyone. Sex is a beautiful concept. It is sacred; there’s nothing casual about it. But it has been twisted into insatiable thirst.

Even though pornography is not a source of lasting satisfaction, people who view it usually do so because they’re looking to fill a deep intimacy need. Pornography is a cheap substitute for what they’re really seeking — intimacy. And porn just leaves you more thirsty.

For many guys, an image is easier to relate to than a young woman with a heart, mind and emotions. An image has no expectations. You don’t have to impress an image or deal with any of the awkwardness that comes with relating to a real person.

Moving into the context of marriage, sex between a husband and a wife is giving yourself completely to your spouse. Those who masturbate to pornography, are engaging in sex with self. Masturbation is giving nothing. Masturbation can take a man into a fantasy world where he can be with anyone he wants and do anything he wants. That’s why married men can get caught up in pornography; it’s a low risk, self-centered way to get that “chemical pop” or rush. But something is lost, intimacy is lost, when we handle our sexuality in this way.

Pornography viewing can begin with something seemingly harmless: airbrushed photos in a magazine or a click on the Web. Soon you’re desiring more graphic material and falling more often. Pornography, a closet addiction, grabs you when you’re weak and holds you in its clutches. Planting seeds of alienation, it attacks and destroys relationships and robs you of self-respect.

Some things that we need to know before we click on those images and masturbate to pixels on a screen are offered by Steve Arterburn.

1. Attraction to a person of the opposite sex is natural.

2. Sex is exhilarating and it is God-given. God made sex beautiful; we have twisted this gift from God.

3. Sex is a slippery slope. Little compromises turn into bigger compromises.

4. God has sexual standards for His creation. To “lust” for something is to have “an intense desire or need” usually to the point that you’re willing to violate God’s word or use another person for your own gratification. Lust must be gratified now at any cost. Again, I like Frederick Buechner’s words: “Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.” Lust is never satisfied.

Scripture illustrates this. Genesis 19 records the perversity of Sodom. Judges 16 tells of Samson’s fatal flaw. 2 Samuel 11 tells of David’s voyeuristic rooftop lusting that led to sin. Perhaps, one of the saddest pictures of lust comes from 2 Samuel 13 where Amnon rapes Tamar, his half-sister.

The NT speaks against homosexual relationships (Rom.1), incestuous relationships (1 Cor.5:1,5, 9-11) and immoral relations (1 Thess.4:3-7). Contrast all of this with the story of Joseph in Genesis 39 who showed restraint and control. So lust can be controlled, and Joseph shows us that we have to literally flee in some cases.

5. God’s love endures through our failure to keep His standards.

6. There is a devil and he will exploit this area. Before marriage, Satan does everything he can to get you to have sex with your boy/girlfriend. After marriage, he does everything he can to keep you from having sex with your wife. One of his ploys is pornography. It sets you up for temptation and moral failure. It degrades people, children, and undermines families. It normalizes immorality.

I may be sharing more on this. But for now, get yourself sexually sober, allow God to show you true intimacy, and rebuild your interior life over the holidays. What a great gift to give to those people who you truly want to be intimate with. If you are married, take ALL of your sexual energy to your spouse and recover true intimacy. What a great Christmas present!

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The Magi – The Closest Thing to An Atheist in the Christmas Story…And They Worshipped!

Matthew 2 “Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold Maji from the East arrived in Jerusalem saying, `Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the East and have come to worship him.’”

Matthew’s gospel is very Jewish. And in this Jewish story, no one’s going to expect a non-Jewish star-gazer (possible atheist) to enter the sacred Christmas story as a major character and give a gift to the Jewish Messiah. After all, they’re not Jews. But that’s what happened. The Magi have no vested interest in this baby, the prophecies related to him, or to the religion in which he was born into. And yet, they find themselves in the story. Imagine – an atheist in the Christmas story!

We do not know the number of the Magi, nor their names, nor the size of the party which traveled to Jerusalem. At best, they were wise men from the East, i.e., Persia, Arabia, or Babylonia, who had heard from either Daniel (who was in captivity for a time in their region) or other Hebrew prophets about a King being born to the Jews. Perhaps they had read Numbers 24:17 which states “A star shall come forth from Jacob and a scepter shall rise from Israel…” Or, perhaps, it was their own prophecy that set them up for this fulfillment. We can’t be sure though.

At worst, they were students of science, philosophy, medicine, astrology and world religions, or even atheists, curious about a star. They were pagan astrologers that took their cues from the stars! Their theological content was limited at best. They weren’t practicing Judaism nor were they living in the Holy Land nor were they part of God’s chosen nation. Yet, God supernaturally revealed to these heathen (perhaps, atheistic) people what He was up to in Jesus. A prophecy outside of the Jewish nation, and a Jewish writer without any proprietary reason to write “pagan astrologers” (or atheists) into the Christmas story, argues for the authenticity of the Matthean account.

This whole thing was started by the appearance of a star. The “star of Bethelehem” has been the subject of scholarly discussion ever since the first centuries after the birth of Jesus. Some have suggested that it was a nova or supernova, a white dwarf star that literally explodes and gradually fades out. Some have suggested that it was a moving comet. Some have suggested that it was a triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Some have suggested that it was the same Shekinah Glory (visible presence) of God that was revealed to Moses in the burning bush, to Israel in the desert (Ex.13:21), to Jesus when he was transfigured, and to Saul on the road to Damascus. We cannot know precisely what phenomenon took place.

But we can safely say that the Magi were men who had an interest in astronomy and expressed what they observed in terms that were consistent with the scientific development of their time. They exhibited a great faith in the evidence they did have that resulted in a worship experience that changed their lives. Is it within the realm of possibility, that they moved from atheism to theism after their long, arduous journey and after seeing the Christ-child? I think it is.

In the context of Matthew’s Messianic Gospel, this part of the birth narrative hints at the eventual spread of the Gospel beyond the nation of Israel to include all people of the world. Men and women in every age, whether premessianic or postmessianic or even atheistic, have been able to fling themselves on to God’s mercies, regardless of the level of their theological content, and there find grace and peace and salvation. Even an atheist has a place in the manger this Christmas.

Atheist, you don’t have to go through a world religion to encounter the Christ-child. No specific religion brokers to you God’s love and favor. No one group has a monopoly on God’s grace. No oppressive, religous establishment can dictate to you this Christmas. Why? You are invited to go straight to the Christ-child. Atheists are welcome in his birth narrative.

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