Was Jesus a real person?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Several of the apologetic books I have read this past year addressed a particular claim that Jesus did not exist, that Jesus was a made-up character by individuals who were simply power hungry, self-serving, manipulating thieves. The majority of credible historians do not consider this claim to be of any serious consequence, and often deal with it in short order. In the book, Jesus Outside the New Testament, Van Voorst’s first and second chapters address this very claim, and then move on to more serious, and consequential, claims made by atheists.

I took some time and visited several atheist sites to see if that was an accurate representation of a claim made by skeptics, (that Jesus did not really exist), and found it to be true. One of several that I found comes from Infidel.org, a popular site for anti-theists, skeptics, and others, who generally believe Christianity has a negative impact on society. The last couple of sentences are what I want to focus on in this post.

“Did Jesus exist? If not, then there’s not much to talk about. If he did, he called himself Lord. This means that either:
He was Lord,
He was a liar, or
He was a lunatic.
It’s unlikely he was a liar, given his morals as described in the Bible, and his behavior doesn’t sound like that of a lunatic. So surely we must conclude that he was Lord?”
Firstly, note that this argument hinges on the assumption that Jesus did in fact exist. This is at least debatable.1

The reference to Lord, liar, or lunatic is from Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, which should be a mandatory read for any high school or college youth group. Some of you may also know C.S. Lewis for the Narnia series of books, which have been turned into popular movies in the last few years.

Before I go any further, let me explain some abbreviations you will see below. ca. stands for, on or around that particular date. Most know that B.C. Stands for Before Christ, but many believe that A.D. stands for After Death, which is a common mistake. A.D. stands for Anno Domini, a Latin phrase which means In the Year of our Lord. You will also see B.C.E. and C.E. which are more recent designations for the same. B.C.E. means Before Common Era and is equal to B.C., and C.E. means Common Era which is the same as A.D. Many Christians resent the attempt to take Christ out of the common Gregorian Calendar, but those recent designations are becoming more common and accepted.

In Jesus Outside the New Testament, author Robert Van Voorst says, “The earliest possible reference to Jesus comes from the middle of the first century. Around 55 C.E., a historian named Thallos wrote in Greek a three-volume chronicle of the eastern Mediterranean area from the fall of Troy to about 50 C.E. Most of his book, like the vast majority of ancient literature, perished, but not before it was quoted by Sextus Julius Africanus (ca. 160-ca. 240), a Christian writer, in his History of the World (ca 220). This book was likewise lost, but one of its citations of Thallos was taken up by Byzantine historian Georgious Syncellus in his Chronicle (ca. 800). According to Syncellus, when Julius Africanus writes about the darkness at the death of Jesus, he added, ‘In the third (book) of his histories, Thallos calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun, which seems to me to be wrong.’” 2

Julius felt that Thallos was wrong because the solar eclipse cannot happen during a full moon, and Passover always falls during a full moon. Obviously, a solar eclipse would explain why the darkness that fell over the land during the crucifixion. Why can’t we experience a solar eclipse during a full moon? Let me explain, when we observe the moon we are only seeing the part of the moon that is illuminated by the sun. When we see a full moon we are seeing the moon from nearly the same perspective as you would see the moon from the sun. In other words the earth is ‘between’ the sun and the moon which are just about lined up. It would be impossible to see a solar eclipse with the moon being further from the sun then the earth. A solar eclipse takes place when the moon is between the earth and the sun, not when the earth is between the sun and the moon. This is why Julius Africanus mentioned that Thallos was wrong. Thallos was trying to explain away the darkness of the crucifixion by a natural occurring solar eclipse, which was not possible at that time.

Who was Thallos? No one knows for sure, but some speculation has been who the Jewish historian Josephus mentions. In The Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus writes, “Now there was one Thallus, a freed-man of Caesar, of whom he borrowed a million of drachmae, and thence repaid Antonia the debt he owed her; and by sending the overplus in paying his court to Caius, became a person of great authority with him.” 3

Determining who Thallos was is not as important, but what is significant is the mention of the darkening sky at the time of Christ’s death. Thallos is also the only known non-Christian to write about Christ prior to the gospels.

A second source outside the New Testament can be found with Pliny the Younger. Pliny the Younger was a Roman Senator and lawyer in Rome who was active in government, administrative duties, and a prolific writer of letters, most of which have been preserved. In his letters, he mentions Christians, and specifically Christ. Many letters involved how to deal with and punish Christians. In one report to Emperor Trajan, from a post in Asia Minor, Pliny explains how he deals with Christians, “I have asked them if they are Christians and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and a third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them. If they persist, I order them to be led away for execution; for, whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and their unshakeable obstinancy ought not to go unpunished… They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to more than this; that they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery…This made me decide it was all the more necessary to extract the truth by the torture of two slave-women, whom they call deaconeses. I found nothing but a degenerate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths.” 4

Van Voorst goes on to explore the accounts of several others who mention Jesus outside the New Testament: Suetonius, Tactius, Mara bar Serapion and others, all of whom confirm the figure of Jesus Christ, his claims, and his followers. Arguments against Christianity go back thousands of years as we see above with Thallos, but the claims of Christ being created by man and never having existed become more prevalent in the 1700 and 1800’s. One Bruno Bauer (1809-1882) is worth mentioning. Bauer laid out three arguments that have been adopted and carried down for nearly two hundred years. First, Bauer denied the value and accuracy of the New Testament. Second, the lack of Christ being mentioned in the first century, and finally, that Christianity was a combination of several religions and mystical at its roots. Bauer was eventually removed from his teaching position at the Berlin University in 1839 for his views.

Van Voorst shared that in conversations with newspaper writers, magazine and book editors, one of the first questions they always ask is if he can prove Jesus existed. The reliability of the New Testament would have to be addressed in another post, which I already have, but the accounts of Jesus, his followers, and their practices, outside the New Testament abound in ancient literature. Speculation about his existence will persist, but if a believer is willing to take a few minutes, and read up on the arguments for his existence, and how historical literature supports this claim, they will be pleasantly surprised. Something else I would like to mention about Bruno Bauer. He substantially influenced two of his students that you may have heard of: Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche. 5

 

Sources:

1. Internet Infidels, Mathew. Common Arguments, Web Log Post. infidels.org. infidels.org, 2007. Web June 2013. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/arguments.html
2. Van Voorst, Robert, E. Jesus Outside the New Testament. Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000, Print.
3. Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print
4. Powell, Doug. Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006. Print.
5. 1. Van Voorst, Robert, E. Jesus Outside the New Testament. Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000, Print.

See also:
http://www.interfaithfamily.com/holidays/passover_and_easter/When_is_Passover_Anyway_A_Guide_to_Jewish_Time.shtml
http://www.lightedway.org/passover.html
http://www.christiantimelines.com/datingofeaster.htm

Midway and Torpedo 8

Reading Time: 7 minutes

There was a little old lady who would come out every morning on the steps of her front porch, raise her arms to the sky and shout, “Praise the Lord!”
Well, one day an atheist moved into the house next door. Over time, he became irritated at the little old lady. So every morning he would step out onto his front porch and yell after her, “There is no God!”
Time passes with the two of them carrying on this way every day. Then one morning in the middle of winter, the little old lady stepped onto her front porch and shouted, “Praise the Lord! Lord, I have no food and I am hungry. Please provide for me, oh Lord!”
The next morning she stepped onto her porch and there were two huge bags of groceries sitting there. “Praise the Lord!” she cried out. “He has provided groceries for me!” The atheist jumped out of the hedges and shouted, “There is no God! I bought those groceries!” The little old lady threw her arms into the air and shouted, “Praise God! He has provided me with groceries and He made an atheist pay for them!”

The above joke has been a favorite of mine since I first read it a few years ago. Sometimes in life we are blessed enough to see the end result of our faithfulness, and our efforts to give thanks to the Lord despite our circumstances. Others in life don’t see the end result, or worse yet, believe what they were trying to do was an abject failure and a waste of time, effort, money, or worse of all, life.

Seventy seven years ago the men of Torpedo Squadron 8 in World War II may have felt that way in their final moments. Their efforts only wasted their lives, and the future they would have had with their family, friends, or loved ones at home. On June 4th, 1942, the men of Torpedo 8 Squadron launched off the deck of the USS Hornet with the mission of sinking as many Japanese ships as possible. With large Japanese and American tasks groups within striking distance of each other, both sides were preparing for battle, launching attack squadrons and defending fighter cover. Torpedo 8 was one of the first attack groups to assault the Japanese, and it was imperative that our naval forces had success since we were still recovering from the devastation of the Pearl Harbor attack. Torpedo 8 was a squadron of torpedo bombers, consequently they flew on the deck, (low over the water), launching their torpedoes at the enemy ships, which included the Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu.

Not only did Torpedo 8 Squadron fail at their mission, not one of them managed to even damage an enemy ship, and all of them were shot down by the defending Zero’s, (Japanese fighters). Twenty-nine men of the Torpedo 8 Squadron lost their lives that morning with only one man surviving, who, after spending 30 hours in the water was finally rescued. Not a single plane of that squadron returned. When you look at those facts, it is difficult to see any good come of it. In fact, it is difficult to see any good coming from any loss of life in war time.

It is also difficult to see the reasons why children might lose their parents at a young age. What good could possibly come from those kinds of circumstances? Daniel, who was a former 8th grade student of mine, lost his father not long after he graduated 8th grade. Daniel and I had some heart to heart talks before he left early in the school year. I was really sorry to see him go, because I saw the potential for a very fine young man.

Blake, another 8th grade student I had, did not have his father in his life, because his father made the choice not to be involved with his son. Frankly, I find it unconscionable that dads would opt out of being involved in the lives of their own children, but it is a choice men and women sometimes make. Going back a few more years, I had two wonderful students, one in 7th grade and the other in 8th grade, whose mother opted to stay with an abusive boyfriend rather than care for her girls. Where was their dad? In prison. Consequently, they were moved to a foster home and have since moved on to college out of the area.
How do Christians address the problem of evil when we have an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God that could stop evil if he choose to?

Epicurus ( 341-270 BC) a Greek philosopher wrote,
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

Doug Powell, a Christian apologist, phrases it this way,
If God is truly all-powerful He could prevent evil.
If God is omniscient [all knowing] He would know when evil was about to take place and therefore could act to stop it.
If God is morally perfect and benevolent [kind and charitable] He would want to prevent evil.
Evil exists.
Therefore, God, at least with those characteristics, does not exist.

That is tough. How do you respond to such difficult statements that make sense, seem logical, and undercut our belief in an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God. This can be the greatest intellectual challenge for the Christian and the non-Christian’s. Can anyone calculate the amount of suffering man has endured by man? On top of that, you have what some call the natural evil of the world, which would include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, and earthquakes. These natural events have added tremendous pain and suffering not only because of those killed, but to the family and friends who survived. William Lang Craig in his book, Hard Questions Real Answers, gives us a distinction between types of answers, namely an intellectual and emotional response. He wrote, “The intellectual problem of evil concerns how to give a rational explanation of God and evil. The emotional problem of evil concerns how to comfort or console those who are suffering, and how to dissolve the emotional dislike people have of a God who would permit such evil.”

We can’t calculate the sufferings humans have endured, but then can you even place a value on suffering? Our court systems certainly think so since every day people are rewarded with a monetary value for pain and suffering caused by the mistakes or actions of others. Are there things that are incalculable, but serve a purpose? Sure, just consider the number pi, 3.1415… which has been calculated up to ten trillion digits. No one has been able to calculate pi, but ask any mathematician what purpose it serves.

Does the small child who receives a vaccination shot understand the pain and suffering they must endure to avoid a greater evil? Certainly the parent does, but despite the child’s cries and pleas, the child receives the shot anyway. My point in this is to say that you may not not ever understand why you have suffered, but just maybe, there is a reason you cannot see yet. It may take months, years, or even a life time to see why you had to endure a particular hardship, but there was a reason. Maybe, in this life you will never know why you had to suffer as you did.

I asked a friend from church, Larry Buck, what he thought he’d done in his life that was the most pleasing to the Lord. His first reply was, “That is a good question.” Then after several moments of consideration, he replied, “Maybe it is not just one thing, but the addition of all the little things I do.” I think he was right on. Could it be God looks at the big picture, the accumulation of being a good husband/wife, father/mother, friend, helping those in need, and acting Christlike to those around him or her?

Seventy seven years ago, 29 men lost their lives for this country, but those who survived the Battle of Midway saw a reason for that sacrifice. The Japanese fighters had to drop down low to shoot down all those torpedo bombers that were flying just a few feet above the water, and just a few minutes later our dive bombers came in at 17,000 feet. The dive bombers were virtually unopposed and had a very successful strike, hitting all three of the Japanese carriers, which had aircraft loaded with fuel and ammunition; you could not have asked for a better target. Before the battle was over, the Japanese would lose all four of their carriers, the U.S. would lose only one. The Battle of Midway was a turning point in the Pacific War for America, and Japan suffered their first defeat in over 300 years.

William Lane Craig address evil this way, “First, the chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.” “…people tend naturally to assume that if God exists, then His purpose for human life is happiness in this life. God’s role is to provide a comfortable environment for His human pets. But in the Christian view, this is false.” Craig goes on to say, “Many evils occur in life which may be utterly pointless with respect to the goal of producing human happiness; but they may not be pointless with respect to producing a deeper knowledge of God.”

Does your response to pain, suffering, evil, and hardship move you away from the Lord, or move you closer to him? That choice is yours, and since God has granted us a choice, at least you have something to consider. Yes, God could remove all evil, but by doing so, he would remove our choice and we would just be compelled to choose good, choose God.

Yes, God is all powerful and could prevent evil. Yes, he is all knowing and would know when evil was going to take place. Yes, he is all loving and would want to prevent evil. Yes, evil exists, but only because God allows it, and allows us to make a choice as humans, as persons made in his image, not robots. God even gave the angels a choice. What value, what pleasure, what purpose, would millions of robots serve who are pre-programed to act and respond in a certain way?

James 1: 2-5  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

1.Powell, Doug. Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006. Print
2.Craig, William, Lane. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
3.Bavousett, Glen. World War II Aircraft in Combat. New York: Arco Publishing Company. 1976. Print
4.Craig, William, Lane. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print

See also:
http://www.history.navy.mil/Midway/Battle-of-Midway-Overview.html
http://ehistory.osu.edu/wwii/articles/midway/
http://www.navy.mil/midway/midway_3_TORPEDO%20SQ%208.html
http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/war-stories/2009/05/29/american-heroes-torpedo-squadron-8

The Miracle of Existence

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Boys do it naturally, sometimes by the early age of three or four. Girls, not so much; they are too busy making conversation to worry about the Doppler effect. Ever watch girls play with dolls or stuffed animals? They (the animals or dolls) are chatting about this or that, and the girls tilt the Barbies or animals a bit left, then a bit right, as they converse about the latest news, or chat about what their plans are for the day. The tone of their voices rise and fall during the conversation. I know this, after having raised three lovely girls.

My boy though, was too busy setting up armies that were preparing for battle and after the first shot was fired you would hear the sounds of rockets, planes, and other fast moving deadly weapons. Varroommmmmmm! The sounds would be higher pitched as it was coming toward you and then deeper as it moved away. Just watch, (and listen), to a boy play with cars or planes as they do half moon circles on the floor. The sound is higher at first then deeper at the end of the arch. This comes naturally because it is what happens in real life. As a low flying plane is moving toward you, the sound is a higher pitch because the sound waves are compressed. The aircraft, which is making the noise, naturally compresses the sound waves since the object making the sound is moving toward you with the sound waves. As the aircraft passes over head the pitch of the noise changes to a deeper, more base quality. This is because the aircraft is now traveling away, but the sound waves it is emitting are still moving toward you, but are spaced further apart because the object which was moving toward you is now moving away from you, which creates a longer wave length and a deeper sound.

So what does that have to do with the miracle of existence? Hang with me here and let me explain. In 1929 Edwin Hubble noticed a red shift in distant galaxies he was observing from the Wilson Observatory. What is a red shift and why is that significant? Well, as you may know, light also has waves and depending on their wave length you will see certain colors. Shorter wave lengths have a blue color and longer wave lengths have a red color. The fact that Hubble discovered a red shift was significant because it meant that those distant galaxies were traveling away. Just as a plane having passed you has longer sound waves making a deeper sound, objects moving away from us have longer light wave lengths, that display a red color. This discovery came to be known as the Big Bang Theory.

Many Christians are uncomfortable with the Big Bang Theory because of the time it involves, which is millions and billions of years. Those that adhere to a young earth creation are especially uncomfortable with this theory. I am not here to argue one way or another on the merits of a young earth or old earth creation theory, but simply to point out that the Big Bang Theory, which is broadly accepted by the scientific community at large, plays right into the hands of theists, (those who believe in God). Nor am I here to argue the case for evolution, which some tend to think that if you espouse an old earth creation you play into the hands of naturalists or Darwin evolutionists. This post is to simply help you understand the miracle of existence.

Some of us tend to think of miracles as highly unlikely events, but highly unlikely events happen every day. Take the lottery for example. Not long ago, someone won a lottery for over 580 million dollars. For you and I that would be a highly unlikely event. Actually, for me it would be a miracle since I don’t buy lottery tickets. Well, I did buy one once about 20 years ago, and told God if he wanted me to win the lottery this was the time. Did not happen, so I figured He did not intend for me to win the lottery. If I had won the lottery, would it have been a miracle? I certainly would have thought so, but it also could have been a highly unlikely event since someone had to win the lottery. The odds of winning the Powerball lottery are in the hundreds of millions to one, but over the years some have won the Powerball.

A miracle may be a highly unlikely event, but God can do so much more than just create or manipulate a highly unlikely event to occur. Every week, someone is deemed cancer free, despite the dismal prognosis of stage four cancer months before. After months of chemo, radiation, and prayer they are given a clean bill of health. Miraculous healing or a highly unlikely event? Every day, people are rescued from tragic circumstances such as fires, car crashes, drownings, or tornadoes which were seemingly a death sentence, but God answered their prayer, or did he? Every day people have occurrences of running into someone they had not seen for years that set off another series of events that bring about an answer to prayer, or was it just dumb luck?

Doug Powell says, “Natural science, though extremely important and useful for providing information about the normal, regular course of the physical world, is not in a position to comment on miracles. Miracles fall outside science’s purview, its ability to speak with authority. Miracles need to be investigated as non-uniform, irregular, purposeful events.” ¹ The event of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the toaster oven like so many Pop Tarts is certainly a example of a miracle. The parting of the Red Sea and the raising of Lazarus are other examples. Can someone make the claim those are highly unlikely events? No, the laws of physics and the natural world were suspended for a time and are unexplainable, except for a miraculous event.

So if the Big Bang Theory is true, and it certainly is the leading theory currently out there concerning the beginnings of our universe, then the universe must have been smaller a thousand years ago. Even smaller one hundred thousand years ago, and smaller still millions of years ago. If we go back far enough then the universe would have been pretty small, say the size of your belly button. All matter, space, time, and energy compressed into that small, singular point, which science calls a singularity.

Have you heard of the 2nd law of thermodynamics? This law states that heat, pressure, and density are always breaking down, always moving toward equilibrium. Our sun for example is burning up, it will not last forever, nor has it been burning forever. The 2nd law of thermodynamics is not in question, that is why we call it a law. You can look at our universe much like you might view a rubber band propeller airplane that was wound up and released, or simply like a match that was struck and is now burning up. So who struck the match, or more to the point, who created the singularity? Where did it come from? Was this a highly unlikely event or the suspension of the laws of our natural universe? Is the universe natural? Did it have to exist? If we have laws, who is the law maker?

When I reflect on these questions, the miracle of our existence solidifies in my mind. Just reflecting on time itself is enough for me to recognize the miracle of existence. Time cannot go back forever, it must have had a starting point. Let me give you some brief examples. Say you were hiking in the mountains and came across an old hermit sitting outside a cave. As you walked toward him you heard him counting, “Negative three, negative two, negative one, zero!” Suddenly he jumps up exclaiming, “I did it! I did it!” You ask him what he is talking about and he excitedly explains he has finally counted up from negative infinity to zero. He explains it took most of his life, but it was well worth the effort since he is the only one in the world to have done it. He also shares that he is going to pack his things, head to San Francisco to find a publisher and write a book about his experience and make millions. Would you buy this book? Neither would I, since we know instinctively that it is impossible for anyone to count from negative infinity to zero, let alone any other number.

Without a starting point it, you can’t reach any other number. Without a starting point we could not reach today. The universe would have burned out and expended all its energy long ago. Another example I have given before would be if I asked a student to write negative 10 up on the board. She walks up and writes -10. I then ask another student to write a smaller negative number by simply adding a zero to the -10. So another student walks up and writes -100 on the board by simply adding another zero. I repeat the request to a third student by asking them to write a smaller negative number by adding another zero to -100. This student walks up, adds a zero and now we have a -1000. I continue this for a couple minutes, and it actually holds my students’ interest at first. They are thinking that something interesting will come of this exercise, but after adding multiple zeros, someone finally asks, “Why are we doing this Mr. Glazier?” I raise an eyebrow, feigning surprise, and state to the class, “I want us to write the smallest negative number and figured we would start today.”

Well, any student who has any concept of negative numbers, understands there is no such thing as the smallest negative number, or the largest positive number for that matter. The students would groan and explain that is not possible, and begin to protest this exercise. They would of course be correct; it would be a waste of time because no one can write the smallest negative number. Once someone stated they have written the smallest negative number, someone else would walk up and add another zero. Does time have that same characteristic? Can we keep adding zeros infinitely? Consider this for a moment, because if time never had a beginning, we never would have reached this moment in time. Time must have had a beginning, which is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around, but the Bible has passages addressing this very concept.

Titus 1:2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,

2 Timothy 1:9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

This life we have, this universe we experience, this existence and the laws within are anything but necessary. Jack Kerwick asked Stephen Hawking the question, “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?” ² in his New American post.
Mr. Kerwick is not the first to ask this question, and will not be the last, but in his brief, and thoughtful post he hangs that question out there like someone who hangs their laundry out on the line to dry. So someone might ask, “Why is that laundry out on the line?” Our reply would be unsophisticated and complete, and also answer the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Because someone wanted it so.

1. Powell, Doug. Guide To Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006. Print
2. Kerwick, Jack. “Question for Stephen Hawking: Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?” The New American. TheNewAmerican.com, Thursday, 25 April 2013. Web.

Comparing several religions

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The school year is over! The last few weeks, in particular the last couple weeks, have been a busy time with me. We had an awards ceremony toward the end of the year, (grades had to be completed for that), had to cram in the Constitution Test for my 8th graders, then a few more final assignments for the final report card. Then, last but not least, the 8th grade graduation for our school.

Working for a Charter School is quite the different animal than working for a public school. As with any job, you will have some advantages and disadvantages. I had been working on some other posts when I had a spare few minutes the past couple weeks, but thinking of the differences between the public school system, where I had worked for many years, and now employed by a charter school, encouraged me to consider the differences between Christianity and other religions or world views. So I want to take a few minutes and point out some significant differences. I learned a few things when I worked on this. Maybe you will too.

Key Persons/Founders/Time and Place
Christianity – Jesus Christ around 30AD, Israel within the Roman Empire
Jehovah’s Witnesses – Charles Taze Russel, 1852-1916, Brooklyn, New York
Mormonism (Latter-day Saints) – Joseph Smith, Jr. 1805-1844, Rochester, New York
Christian Science – Mary Baker Eddy, 1821-1910, Boston, Massachusetts
New Age – Stems from several Eastern religions, popularized by Shirley MacLaine in the 1980’s and 1990’s
 

Key Sources for Doctrine
Christianity – The Bible, which includes Old and New Testament
Jehovah’s Witnesses – The Bible: New World Translation, Watchtower and Awake magazines
Mormonism (Latter-day Saints) – The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the King James version of the Bible.
Christian Science – Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures, Manual of the Mother Church, Christian Science Journal, and Christian Science Sentinel.
New Age – No specific sources, selected scriptures, and other Hindu, Buddhist, and Native American teachings or beliefs.
 

Who is God
Christianity – One in three persons, not three gods, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Jehovah’s Witnesses – One person called Jehovah. No Trinity. Jesus is the first thing Jehovah created.
Mormonism (Latter-day Saints) – God was once a man who progressed to a god. He and his wife (Heavenly Mother) have physical bodies.
Christian Science – God is an non-personal principle of life, love, intelligence and spirit. Matter is an illusion.
New Age – Depending on who you talk to, everything and everyone is God. People have unlimited inner power (the force 😉 ) to discover and use.
 

Who is Jesus
Christianity – The second person of the Trinity, fully God and fully man. He has always existed, and according to God’s plan, He is the sacrifice as a payment for our sins.
Jehovah’s Witnesses – He was Michael the archangel. On earth, he was a man who lived a perfect life and was resurrected as a spirit, who returned in 1914.
Mormonism (Latter-day Saints) – He was a spirit child created by Father (Elohim) and Mother. His body was created by a sexual encounter with Mary and Elohim. Jesus was married and his sacrifice does not provide full pardon for our sins, but only a resurrection.
Christian Science – Jesus was a man who only lived perfection. Christ means perfection. Jesus was not a God, and God cannot become a man. Christ did not suffer and could not suffer for our sins.
New Age – He was a spiritual model, teacher, guru and became a master who used the inner divine power to attain great wisdom. Some believe he traveled to India or Tibet and learned many more mystical truths and eventually rose to a higher spiritual realm.
 

How to be Saved
Christianity – Salvation is by the grace of God and has nothing to do with our efforts or works, because everyone will come up short to the Glory of God. Believe that Jesus died for our sins, physically rose again.
Jehovah’s Witnesses – Be baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. You will earn a possible salvation (salvation is limited to 144,000) by door to door evangelism.
Mormonism (Latter-day Saints) – Resurrected by grace, but only saved by works. Works include faithfulness to church leaders, tithing, Mormon baptism, and secret temple rituals. To be saved, you must be a member of the Mormon church.
Christian Science – Humanity is already saved eternally. Sin, evil, sickness, and death are only an illusion.
New Age – Again depending on who you talk to, salvation may be attained through meditation, self-awareness, spirit guides. Have more positive karma than negative karma, and eventually through reincarnation you will reach perfection or become one with god or the universal energy.
 

What happens after Death
Christianity – After death, everyone waits for the final judgment and both believers and non-believers will be resurrected. Believers saved by grace and Christ’s gift will spend eternity in heaven, non-believers will spend eternity in hell, separated from God.
Jehovah’s Witnesses – The 144,000 will live as spirits in heaven.
Mormonism (Latter-day Saints) – Most will go to one of three heavens and some will earn godhood. The rest will be banished to the outer darkness.
Christian Science – Death is not real. Heaven and hell are not real.
New Age – Many believe in reincarnation, and that cycle will continue till one reaches perfection or harmony with god. No heaven or hell.
 

Other Practices
Christianity – Baptism, Communion, voluntary missionary work.
Jehovah’s Witnesses – They do not observe holidays or birthdays. Not allowed to vote, salute the flag, or work in the military. Blood transfusions are not permitted. Meetings at their Kingdom Halls 5 days a week.
Mormonism (Latter-day Saints) – Secret rituals and celestial marriage for members in good standing. They do not allow tobacco or alcohol use. Two year missionary work is common. Emphasis on education with many colleges in Mexico and the South Pacific.
Christian Science – Since matter is an illusion, they use Christian Science practitioners for healing. Claims of miraculous healing is common in the Christian Science Monitor.
New Age – Meditation, visualization, astrology, channeling, hypnosis, trances, tarot cards, and use of crystals are common practices for New Age believers. Efforts toward world peace, belief in self and the inner goodness of human kind will overpower the darker side of ourselves.
 

Sources
Christianity Cults and Religions pamphlet by Rose publishing.
The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin.
So What’s the Difference by Fritz Ridenour.

Pin It on Pinterest