Friday, March 29, 2013

SMR 413

Smoky Mountain Reflections
April 2013
            The Gospel is always under attack, such as "it is one among many", or "corrupted over time". These are two arguments that can be responded to with a simple examination of the mountains of ancient manuscript evidence.  This evidence affirms what the church has always held to be true, that Matthew, Mark, Luke & John are the Gospel.   

            The attack I would like to address this month is the claim that Christianity is a religious myth among many myths that have all evolved over time by sharing and plagiarizing ideas from each other.  This is actually a relatively young attack on the gospel. It did not even exist 150 years ago. It was first proposed by "The History of Religions School" in the 1800's. Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), one of the groups’ scholars, felt they were freeing Christianity from the tyranny of scholastic philosophy, but in so doing pulled the rug out from under scriptural authority. They did not care what the Bible said because in their minds Christianity was a product of religious evolution. Evidence of the weak nature of this particular argument is that there are no religious departments in any accredited institution of higher learning anywhere that are continuing the work of "The History of Religions School". However the group’s conclusions are sadly parroted in most comparative religion classes today. These conclusions are being stated as fact with no evidence to support such claims because there is no evidence.  Here are some clear reasons why no work is being done to assert these false claims:

1. Christianity pre-dates most of the "religions" it is supposed to have plagiarized or evolved from.

2. Ancient writings that pre-date Christianity are: the Old Testament, which is fulfilled in Christianity;   Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism which have no parallels from which to plagiarize.

3. There are however three examples, often sited, with parallels that do pre-date Christianity; the Baal-Mot epic, the Isis cult, and Mithraism. Here are some of the supposed parallels; Christ and (Mithras), Virgin birth (born from a rock), a teacher with 12 disciples (a leader with lots of followers), Crucifixion (sacrificed a bull), Resurrection (no record), logos (no record).  When you place these side by side they don't look very similar.

4. The nail in the coffin though is the faulty reasoning that parallels equal plagiarism and borrowing. This is known in the philosophical world as the "post hoc fallacy" also called false cause, coincidental correlation. It can be expressed this way: "A occurred, then B occurred. Therefore, A caused B." But correlation does not equal causation. You may ask yourself why scholars would use a method of argumentation that is so flawed.
Those who make these assertions do not care if it is logical because it suits their needs.  Here is a great example of how flawed this line of reasoning is. This example compares two well-known individuals, Lincoln & JFK. Both were: elected to the House in '46; to the presidency in '60; defeated the incumbent VP; their predecessors retired to Pennsylvania; their successors were Southern Democrats named Johnson born in '08. They both fought for civil rights, were shot in the head from behind on a Friday, a companion was wounded. Both had a son die during their presidency. Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre, Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln made by Ford, their last names have 7 letters, Booth ran from a theatre to a warehouse; Oswald ran from a warehouse to a theatre. This list proves nothing but, using this line of reasoning, in two thousand years someone could argue that JFK did not exist but was plagiarized from the historical accounts of Abraham Lincoln.

            The problem is there are a lot of people today who knew and witnessed all of the events that surrounded JFK's assassination. The same is true for the account of the crucifixion and the resurrection. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is an historical fact by all historical standards.  The empty tomb is an historical fact by all historical standards. There are post resurrection witness accounts by hundreds of individuals. The credibility of the witnesses and their accounts is without blemish. Most of the primary witnesses were martyred confessing Christ. They gave their lives as evidence of the truth of their claims. (people do not give their lives for what they know to be a lie) Christianity rose and grew in its first few hundred years in a hostile environment. The first witnesses to this truth were woman, in a society that did not value a woman's testimony. Some witnesses recorded these truths from outside the faith like Josephus, Suetonius and Tacitus. Why are so many things both good and bad in the record?...because that is the way it happened. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to die and rise for you! Have a blessed Easter!
In Christ Pastor Portier
The bulk of this article is based on a lecture given by Dr. Adam Francisco Professor of History at Concordia University in Irvine CA. On the internet radio program "Fighting for the Faith" titled "Eyewitnesses accounts and myth" 8/3/12

Friday, March 1, 2013

SMR March 2013

Smoky Mountain Reflections
March 2013
            What is truth? Is there such a thing as truth? In a free and prosperous society, if there is a truth, does it really matter?  These are not questions one can answer in a simple little one page article.  However for the sake of brevity, let me start with Yes, Yes, and Yes to each of the three somewhat rhetorical questions I just asked. Take a little walk with me as I ponder and make assertions on each of these questions, but more importantly, as I consider how one might communicate these answers to a world that does not really care about truth. We live in a society that not only does not care about truth, it gladly sacrifices it on the altar of personal rights every day.

            First what is truth? The word has many definitions, but for this discussion, let’s go with two:  the body of real things, and transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality.  There is really very little real modern debate on the first one. For example, gravity is a universally accepted truth. Truth of course is not subject to our acceptance of it, but the point is that there are truths that everyone accepts and on which there is no disagreement. The second definition is under a state of great debate. Transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality is a truth that is equally unaffected by our acceptance of it.  However many act as if it does not exist. If you identify yourself as a Christian, your understanding of transcendent truth is in conflict with over two thirds of the world’s population.  While within biblical Trinitarian Christianity, there is a great divergence of understandings of that truth, the truth is not divergent—sinful beings are.             

            Is there such a thing as truth? This is a philosophical question, so I will offer a philosophical answer. Plainly I would state that since truth is a concept that is definable and observable, and since definable and observable concepts exist, then it follows that truth exists.    

            In a free and prosperous society, if there is a truth, does it really matter? This is where the rubber meets the road. Truth matters, and more importantly, transcendent spiritual truth matters.  Any student of history can tell you that time and time again throughout history, every society that has ever existed which upheld and lived by the transcendent spiritual truths that are contained in God's word or even if their truths mirrored God's word, those societies enjoyed decades or even centuries of peace and prosperity. On the flip side of that reality, the clear decline of every society that has ever existed was accompanied by their denial of clear transcendent fundamental truths.  Truths, like all aspects of society, need to foster and support the family unit as the basic building block. Killing unborn babies and same gender relationships are an affront to that truth and are a reality that preceded and accompanied the fall of all societies in history.  When we choose to define truth to suit our own desires, this leads to departure from truth and is the sure road to destruction.           

            Communicating this truth and the fact that it matters is difficult in a post modern society that specializes in dismissal of truth, avoidance, diversion and appeasement at the cost of truth and reconciliation.  In our society, the rights of the individual trump all truth claims.  This leads to illogical statements that defeat themselves and positions in life that are known as happy inconsistencies.
            Judge not..................   Is not the one who says this making a judgment?
            Be tolerant of all......    except of course those who are not tolerant enough.
            There is no absolute truth......  except of course that statement.

            Here are some examples of happy inconsistencies: "You do not have to go to church to be a Christian"
even though that violates one of the commandments. Over 80% of Americans claim to be Christians and over 60% of Americans think Christ is one among many paths to God.  This means that at least 40% believe themselves to be Christian while not believing Christ when He clearly said, “I am the way the truth and the life; NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME!” If I say I am a tree....that does not make me a tree?  The truth is that to be a tree you must have roots, a trunk, and leaves and you cannot talk.  In the same way, just saying you are a Christian does not make you a Christian. You must have saving faith in the Son of God, and if you have that faith, then your life will not be full of happy inconsistencies that ignore truth. Your life will reflect your appreciation of the free gift of Grace, and you will not hold on to your favorite sin and deny God's truth by saying it is not sin. You will love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and strength, not because you can or you have to.....but because through Grace, He equips and enables you to respond in the most God-pleasing way possible and where you fall short....Christ has you covered.  Have a blessed Lent.

In Christ, Pastor Portier