How do you Defend your Faith?

How do you Defend your Faith?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above image by andreydmv from Pixabay

Many years ago when I was in college I took some fencing classes. No, not classes that teach you how to string barbed wire across your property, but classes that instruct on sword play. The class started with the foil, then expanded to an epee, and finally the sabre. With some martial arts experience under my belt, I felt I had a slight advantage over some of the other beginning students. Several months down the road, I participated in a local college tournament and earned 2nd place after losing to a young woman who was also in her 20’s. Despite her having a reach 6 inches less than mine, I lost. She was as fast as I was, but had more experience and knew some techniques I was unprepared for. I remember being frustrated because I could not score on her, and in my frustration I moved in closer to press the attack, which is when she would score. A few minutes later she had won the match.

So often in conversations we give away our advantages by making statements or claims we might have difficulty backing up if we don’t have the knowledge, background, or experience. Many Christians feel the pressure to be bold and evangelize about their faith and are called to do so, but the truth is they hope no one will ask them any difficult questions they can’t answer. Then when questions start flying they’re at a loss on what to say or how to respond.

The other day a co-worker Jennifer, who knows I enjoy blogging on apologetics and wrestling with tough questions, asked me about the crucifixion. She explained that someone asked her why Jesus was buried in a tomb. “Everyone” knows when the Romans crucified someone, they were thrown into an open grave or pit. In other words, why was Jesus so special? Sounds rather fishy, this whole placed-in-a-tomb-story which is followed by a resurrection claim.

My initial response to her was to ask how does he know that no one was buried in a tomb after being crucified? How did he come to that conclusion? That places the burden of proof on him, not because you are trying to avoid having to respond or that you don’t know the answer, but because you honestly want to know. We can’t expect to know all the answers to questions skeptics may ask, and it is important to be honest when asked something you can’t answer. If you don’t know the answer, tell them. At the same time, when you ask someone how he came to that conclusion, or what evidence he has for his reasoning, you may learn something in return. He may have good reasons for his claim and you want to hear them. Worse thing that can happen is you will learn something. Not only from him, but if you then go home and research an answer, you will be better prepared to respond the next time someone asks you.

I personally had not heard that particular push-back before, and other than pointing out that Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy and a follower of Jesus who asked for his body so he could put him in a tomb, Matthew 27:57, I would not have had anything else to add. So I went home and began my research for a blog post. What I found out surprised me and maybe it will surprise you, too.

History is not clear on who invented crucifixion, but most scholars believe it to be the Persians. Romans crucified enemies since 300 B.C., until it was outlawed by the Roman emperor Constantine in 337 A.D. One of the more famous accounts would be the slave uprising led by Spartacus in 73 B.C. After overpowering the Roman guards, the gladiators and slaves escaped from a gladiator school in Capua. The slave army expanded while pillaging the country side, and won several battles against the Romans until Spartacus and his army were trapped between two Roman legions with a 3rd soon to arrive. In 71 B.C., Spartacus and his army was defeated. Those who were captured, (over 6000), were crucified along the road from Capua to Rome, over 100 miles in length.1

The ancient historian Josephus has multiple account of crucifixions; for example Alexander Jannaeus, the Maccabean king, crucified hundreds while dining with his concubines. Varus, a Roman commander in Syria, crucified over 2000 Jews. Josephus even reported that during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Romans were crucifying up to 500 Jews a day until they ran out of timber in the surrounding countryside.2

With crucifixion such a common practice for centuries, you would expect there to be an overflowing amount of skeletal evidence for this practice. Other than the multiple ancient historical accounts, (Josephus is only one of many), we only have one archaeological piece of evidence, which just happens to have been found in a tomb.

His name was Yehohanan, a young man in his mid twenties, who around the time of Christ did something to offend the Romans. For this offense he was crucified. Because he was from a wealthy family, he was placed in a tomb and after a year his bones were gathered together and then placed in a stone box called an ossuary. Two thousand years later in 1968, a Jewish archeologist made the discovery, which is now on display in a museum in Israel.3

The reasons for the lack of evidence is not necessarily obvious at first, but substantial when you give it some consideration. First, nearly all who were crucified were not placed in a tomb, but rather tossed into an open grave or left for animals to devour.

Second, it is a Jewish custom not to leave someone hanging up overnight, and often the bodies were taken down after several hours. Deuteronomy 21:22-23. Over time, the bones would be scattered with little evidence remaining, and often they were criminals, (at least on the view of Romans), and were not placed in tombs.

Third, injuries were often through soft tissue, not piercing bones, but if the bones were damaged it would be difficult to tell from damage animals may have caused by gnawing on the bones. Some were not nailed, but only tied to the cross.

Finally, crucifixion nails were considered magical or as holding special healing properties and collected when found. Consequently, the most hardy, (long lasting), evidence was often removed from the location of the crucifixion. The wooden crosses and the victims themselves would not last centuries, unlike the nails used.4

I find it ironic that the claim, “No one crucified was ever buried in a tomb” is not only false, but the ‘only’ physical evidence we have for the ancient practice of crucifixion which spanned roughly 500 years was found in a tomb of someone who was crucified.

What you just read is an example of apologetics in action. Do you know what apologetics is? Apologetics is not apologizing for your faith – it is defending your faith. It stems from the Greek word apologia and means a verbal defense. Christians should be able to defend verbally why they are a Christian.

If someone asks you why you are a believer, can you give them reasons, evidence, or are you going to pull the experiential card, which is often based on feelings and emotions.

Why should a church engage in apologetics? Why should pastors teach apologetics? Why should youth groups be exposed to apologetics?

  • 1 Peter 3:15
  • It feeds certain members of the congregation who may be more evidentially minded in their faith.
  • It prepares youth to hear arguments, reasoning, and conclusions counter to their faith.
  • Those who are confidant in their answers are more willing to engage the culture and move beyond their comfort zone of fellow believers in conversation.

Whether you want to admit it or not, you are walking the streets with a sword hanging from your hip. You are walking by others who are also armed. These different swords are not called foils, epee’s, or sabre’s but by the more familiar names of explanation, ideas, reasons, evidence, justifications, beliefs, assertions, faith, and truth. When someone makes a truth claim, and you cross swords, you have two choices, and only two choices. Learn from the experience, or remain the same; no better swordsman or swordswoman, than you were before you engaged them. Which kind will you be?

Sources:

1. Czeck, Kenneth P. “Ancient History: Spartacus and the Slave Rebellion.” HistoryNet, historynet.com, n.d., http://www.historynet.com/spartacus.htm
2. Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.
3. Friedman, Matti, “In a stone box, the only trace of crucifixion.” The Times of Israel, timesofisrael.com, 26 March 2012, http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-a-stone-box-a-rare-trace-of-crucifixion/
4. Killgrove, Kristina. “This Bone Is The Only Skeletal Evidence For Crucifixion In The Ancient World.” Forbes, forbes.com, 8 December 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2015/12/08/this-bone-provides-the-only-skeletal-evidence-for-crucifixion-in-the-ancient-world/#10012eee403c

Sex Under Sedation

Sex Under Sedation

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I was going to title this blog post Fatal Flaws, but my family and I were laughing because over the years we have noticed a significant increase in traffic, (hits to my blog) if I have the word sex in the title. Not only is the word sex in the title, it is an appropriate alliteration to the post.

How would you respond if someone made one of the comments below to you?

• You ought to do what society says you should do.
• All religions are equally valid.
• People should have the right to make their own moral choices.
• We should never judge others.

Ever seen any statements like that before, or maybe something similar? Just spend five minutes on Facebook and you will see some. This is especially true if the hot topic of homosexuality or abortion come up and opinions differ. I listened to a lecture a several weeks ago that pointed out some of the problems with relativism. What does relativism mean? The statements above are good examples that might help you understand the views held by many that embrace relativism.

Let’s look at each of these statements one at a time and see how you could respond if you hear something like that, or if someone makes that claim.

1. You ought to do what society says you should do.
At face value, who would have an issue with such a statement? Society says we should not run red lights, but continue at green lights. Society has laws that state we should not beat our wives, or torture our children. But what if society said we could beat our wives and torture our children? Would that make it moral? In other countries, men can beat their wives so is the morality of such an action dependent on where we live, or how we were raised? It should be obvious that some cultures, (past and current), have laws that we instinctively recognize as immoral.

If we are limited in our behavior or actions by what society deems ethical, then we cannot have any moral reformers. There would not be such a thing as an immoral society. Martin Luther King should have been tossed in jail for being critical of civil rights. What the ancient Aztecs did to its own was discovered in the early 1500’s as Spanish explorers witnessed human sacrifice; had the Spanish outsiders protested they would have been in the wrong.

For those familiar with history you may know the Nazis during the Nuremberg trials said there are not any ethical duties or responsibilities that go beyond a society. No society or government has the right to judge another. No ‘ought’s’, just is. When we use the word ought, it implies a moral responsibility that goes beyond any people group. The relativist says all cultures and how they behave are equally just in how they conduct themselves. Yet it is clear that the slavery which took place in the 1800’s was wrong. Without reformers like William Wilberforce, slavery in England may have continued for another century.

2. All religions are equally valid.
Ever hear of the cult called ‘The Children of God’? They were popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s, founded by David Berg. They encouraged free love among adults, and even encouraged female members to seduce men in the hopes of converting them to their brand of Christianity. How about the Raelians also founded in the 1970’s. This is a UFO cult started by Claude Vorilhon, a retired French journalist that believes we are all descendants of an alien race who came to earth 25,000 years ago, and who wants to build an extraterrestrial embassy in Jerusalem to welcome back Elohim. When Elohim returns, he will resurrect all those who have used cloning. Needless to say this cult is a strong advocate for human cloning.1 Clearly these are not equally valid religions. Either we are descendants of an alien race or we are not. If there is a God, using women as prostitutes to seduce men to their brand of Christianity (Children of God) would be acceptable to Him, or not.

More mainstream religions have the same kind of conflicts with their basic doctrines. My brand of Christianity believes that Christ is the Son of God and one of the three persons in the Trinity. Jehovah’s Witness do not believe in the Trinity and Jesus is actually Michael the archangel and was God’s first creation. Either the Trinity is a correct view, or it is not. Jesus either was Michael the archangel or He was not.2

All religions are not equally valid and never will be. Many religions have some elements that are similar, or even the same, but it is not what we find similar between different religions as what is important, but what the differences are.

3. People should have the right to make their own moral choices.
This would work if everyone made the right moral choice. For example, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who just carried out an attack at Ohio State university on November 28th, said he “was sick and tired of seeing fellow Muslims killed and tortured”3 so he ran over several people and then got out and tried to attack others with a knife until officers shot him.

Did Abdul have the right to make that moral choice? Someone might counter by stating others can make their own moral choices as long as it does not hurt anyone else. This is called the minimalist ethic, courtesy of John Stuart Mill the English philosopher who believed, “… one can live one’s life as one likes so long as no harm is done to others. Thus, it becomes common to think of most ethical decisions involving no harm to others as simply ‘personal choices,’ not subject to moral judgment either by oneself or by others.”4

The problem with this view is best explained with an example. In 2015, George Doodnaught, an anesthesiologist in Toronto, Canada, was found guilty of raping or sexually assaulting 21 women while they were under anesthetics. If a women was under sedation, and raped, but did not remember anything, what is the problem? What harm was done? If couples are unfaithful, but the spouse does not know about it, what harm is there in that?

Could we have circumstances that make the minimalist ethic insufficient to capture an immoral behavior? Certainly, and the examples above do just that. If children or women are sexually abused while under sedation, but they never knew about it, then the minimalist ethic cannot explain the lack of morality we see in that situation.

4. We should never judge others.
A few years back on Facebook, a women was defending her son’s right to be gay. When some other well meaning Christians pushed back on his lifestyle choice, she replied with, “Matthew 7:1, Don’t judge or you too will be judged.” This passage is not simply about judging others, but hypocritical judging, as in: if I have a 2 pack a day smoking habit, and while I take a drag off one of my cigarettes, I tell someone else they should quit smoking.

They almost never read verses 3-5, but instead cherry pick Bible verses that support their own view. Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.(NIV)

In the online lifestyle magazine Amerikanki, one contributor wrote an article titled 8 Reasons Why You Should Never Judge Other People.5 She explains that most people don’t notice their own mistakes, but regardless of the reason, we ought not to judge. Of course, recognizing a mistake implies we have already judged. If someone did something “wrong”, we’ve made a judgement call.

She also suggested we hold off on judging till we know all the facts, (good advice), but it was also a confusing statement because in the same breath she told us to never judge. She writes, “Regardless of the reason, we don’t have a right to judge anyone. Most people don’t notice their own mistakes, instead they strive to find and point out someone else’s mistakes.”… “Before judging someone, make sure that you know all the facts about this person. Maybe you don´t know the whole story, you don’t know their problems and worries. It is very important to hold off until you know all facts. Instead of judging, try to help them or leave them alone.6 Wait a minute. How can you help someone without judging their mistakes? If you think someone is making a mistake, isn’t that judging?

Our culture is full of statements and ideas that are relativistic views. Point these out to someone next time you see one. Educate yourself and those around you by looking for them and discussing them. This is especially true for those leading youth groups because our youth need to be prepared to recognize truth from error.

Sources:
1. Styles, Ruth. “We’re creating an embassy to welcome the Elohim back to Earth! Inside the wacky world of the Raelians – a cult who thinks we are descended from Aliens.” Daily Mail. Dailymail.co.uk., 9 May 2014. Web. 26 November 2016.
2. Bickel, Bruce. Jantz, Stan. “Jehovah’s Witnesses: A View from the Watchtower.” World Religions & Cults 101, Harvest House Publishers, 2002, pp. 111-122
3. Grinberg, Emanuella et al. “Ohio State University: Attacker Killed, 11 Hospitalized after Campus Attack.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2 Nov. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/11/28/us/ohio-state-university-active-shooter/.
4. Callahan, Daniel. “Minimalist Ethic” Oxford Scholarship Online. Oxfordscholarshiponline.com, n.d., Web. 2 December 2016
5. Anna. “8 Reasons You Should Never Judge Other People.” Amerikanki. Amerikanki.com, 25 February 2015. Web. 3 December 2016
6. Ibid.

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Sex Under Sedation by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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