Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Above image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay

In 2001 Yann Martel published the book Life of Pi, which became a hit film in 2012. One of the themes in the book claims all religions are true and it is enough to love God. 

At the movie’s beginning, we are introduced to a kind-hearted young man named Piscine Molitor Patel, or (Pi), the son of a zoo-keeper. As a young man, Pi earnestly seeks truth, looks for the good in all things, and decides to become a Christian, Krishna, and Muslim. 

One day, when walking in town with his parents, they run into Pi’s Christian priest, his Muslim imam, and his Hindu pandit. An awkward to say the least, as each in turn claims Pi is a devoted Christian, Muslim, and Hindu follower. Finally, they demand he choose one religion. Pi in his wisdom which surpasses his teachers, says, “Bapu Gandi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God.”1

Fast forward, and we find Pi with his family on a cargo ship heading to Canada, but in a storm, the ship sinks, and Pi is stranded in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra, and a tiger named Richard Parker. Pi and Richard Parker survive on the open sea for seven months until they float to Mexico, where the tiger runs off into the jungle. 

When Pi is rescued, officials interview him on what happened to the ship. An accounting has to be made, and the owners of the ship who have lost a fortune want to know what took place and why the ship was lost. 

Pi shares the story of the animals in the lifeboat and how they survived, but the officials say that is complete nonsense. Pi then offers another version. He recounts the story, but this time the hyena is the ship’s cook, the orangutan is Pi’s mom, the zebra is a crew member, and Pi is the tiger. 

Pi explains the cook cut off the injured leg of the zebra and used the meat to catch fish. In time the cook kills his mother, and Pi, in turn, kills the cook. Pi ends the story with a choice for the interrogators; they are to choose which story they prefer. Pi points out it is irrelevant; they can’t prove one story over the other. The facts of either account can’t be proven, so it does not matter which they one choose. 

The officials choose the story with the animals, and Pi responds, “Thank you. And so it goes with God.”2

The point Martel makes is that, like the two stories that Pi told, it is with religion. No religion has the whole truth, and all are subject to various interpretations and conflicting stories. 

In today’s culture, religious claims are not truth claims, but cultural or preferred flavors and subjective (opinion) claims. In fact, making the claim that your religion is the correct religion is considered intolerant and unloving. However, Paul Gould points out in his book, Cultural Apologetics, “It does not follow that disagreement entails intolerance. We [as Christians] should tolerate-show love and respect to people, not ideas.”3

Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many on the left demand we show respect for their ideas and beliefs. Beliefs such as the right to choose an abortion must be not only tolerated but respected. Yet, I have no respect for that worldview and find it contemptible. Yet I understand and believe those people who hold such views should be respected and loved. Christian philosopher Peter Kreft wrote, “We ought to be egalitarian with people and elitist with ideas.4

Truth claims, by nature, are exclusive. For example, as I write this, it is raining outside my window. That is a truth claim, which correspond to reality and the world as we understand it. Truth claims hold a belief, thought, or statement that harmonizes with reality. 

If I tell my Jr high students 1/2 is an equivalent ratio to 25/50, that is either true or not; there is no in-between. It is not true some of the time or most of the time, nor is it possibly true or potentially true; it is true all of the time. Christians claim that Jesus is divine, but Muslims say Jesus was not divine, both can’t be correct, and both can’t be true. 

((Gould, Paul. “Addressing Barriers.” Cultural Apologetics, 2019, Zondervan, 2019, pg 194″))

In recent years as the gender identity storm has ravaged our cultural landscape, decisions about sexual orientation or gender identity are based entirely on feelings. There is no denying individuals struggle with gender identity, but gender-affirming care, which includes puberty blockers and surgery, were decided on feelings, not facts. Only in the last couple of years have some begun to acknowledge the devastation this has caused a generation. 

Nancy Pearcy pointed out in her book Total Truth the struggle C.S. Lewis had when he abandoned his childhood faith for atheism. Lewis wanted the truth, “He became desperate to find a truth that satisfied the whole person, including his longing for meaning and beauty.”5

The turning point for Lewis came from the most tenacious atheist he knew, who shared how the Gospel accounts were surprisingly good. That is to say, they seemed plausible, possibly true. “All that stuff of mythology about the Dying God. Rum Thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.”((Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy, Harcourt Brace, 1955, pg 170)) Pearcy explains, “There is no division into contradictory, opposing levels of truth-therefore no division in a person’s inner life either. Christianity fulfills both our reason and our spiritual yearnings.”((Pearcy, Nancy. “Keeping Religion in its Place.” Total Truth, Crossway Books, 2005, pg 121))

Ask yourself if the world we live in is an illusion. Or is it a product of chance, an accident that happened over millions or billions of years? Was God just a human invention, or is there a higher power somehow involved with this theatre we call reality? Who is right in their view of the world and reality, Jesus, George Carlin, or Oprah Winfrey? What you decide matters considerably and will determine how you will live your life. 

When you look at two little white pills, both the same size, color, and weight in grams, you can tell yourself they are basically the same. So on the surface, it really wouldn’t matter which one you choose, but if one was aspirin and the other arsenic, which one you choose will matter greatly. So choose wisely; all religions can’t be true. 


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Life of Pi by James William Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://christianapologetics.blog/.

  1. Martel, Yann. “Chapter 23.” Life of Pi, A Harvest Book, 2003, pg. 66 []
  2. Martel, Yann. “Chapter 23.” Life of Pi, A Harvest Book, 2003, pg. 69 []
  3. Gould, Paul. “Addressing Barriers.” Cultural Apologetics, 2019, Zondervan, 2019, pg 194″ []
  4. Kreeft, Peter. San Francisco, The Snakebit Letters, Ignatius, 1998, pg 94 []
  5. Pearcy, Nancy. “Keeping Religion in its Place.” Total Truth, Crossway Books, 2005, pg 120 []
Can You Defend What You Believe?

Can You Defend What You Believe?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Swordplay

Many years ago, when I was in college, I took some fencing classes. No, not courses that teach you how to string barbed wire across your property, but lessons that instruct on swordplay. The class started with the foil, expanded to an epee, and finally, the saber. With some martial arts experience under my belt, I felt I had a slight advantage over some 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 in her late 20s. I had a 6-inch reach advantage over her and was as fast as she was, but she 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 often score. Finally, a few minutes later, she won the match.

Fleche

Fleche is a fencing term that is an explosive attack, ideally unexpected, to take your opponent off guard. 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. So many Christians feel the pressure to be bold and evangelize 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. 

It should be obvious you don’t want to make any claims you can’t back up. 

Understandably, most Christians are not vocal about their faith for fear of offending or sounding silly when they can’t explain why they believe what they believe. 

Years ago, 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. When the Romans crucified someone, they were thrown into an open grave or pit. In other words, why was Jesus so special? What made him an exception? What a good question; it does sound somewhat contrived, this whole placed-in-a-tomb-story followed by a resurrection claim.

Listen and Clarify

My initial response to her was to ask how he (her friend) knew 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 essential 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 they came to that conclusion or what evidence they have for their reasoning, you may learn something in return. They may have good reasons for their claims, and you want to hear them. What is wrong with hearing their reasons? Nothing, and at worse, you will learn something. Not only from them, but if you then go home and research an answer, you will be better prepared to respond the next time someone asks you.

I 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 Jesus 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.

Crucifixions

History is unclear on who invented the crucifixion, but most historians believe it was the Persians. Romans crucified enemies for about 600 years, from 300 B.C. until the Roman emperor Constantine outlawed them 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 countryside 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 were defeated. Of those captured (over 6000) were crucified along the road from Capua to Rome, over 100 miles in length.((Czeck, Kenneth P. “Ancient History: Spartacus and the Slave Rebellion.” HistoryNet, historynet.com, n.d., http://www.historynet.com/spartacus.htm))

The ancient historian Josephus has multiple accounts 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 crucified up to 500 Jews a day until they ran out of timber in the surrounding countryside.((Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.))

With crucifixion such a common practice for centuries, you would expect there to be an overflowing amount of skeletal evidence for this practice. But unfortunately, besides the multiple ancient historical accounts (Josephus is only one of many), we only have one archaeological piece of evidence, which 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.((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/))

Why is there little Evidence for the Crucifixions?

The reasons for the lack of evidence are not necessarily apparent at first but substantial when you give it some consideration. First, nearly all crucified were not placed in a tomb but 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 by the Jews. Deuteronomy 21:22-23. The bones would be scattered over time with little evidence remaining, and often they were criminals (at least in 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. And not all who were crucified were nailed; some were just tied to the cross. 

Finally, crucifixion nails were considered magical or held special healing properties and were often collected when found. Consequently, the hardiest, longest-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.((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))

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 was found in a tomb of someone who was crucified.

Why Apologetics?

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 or evidence? Unfortunately, many Christians pull the experiential card, often based on feelings, emotions, and first-person experiences. Not to say those shared experiences don’t move others, but even the Mormons speak of a ‘burning in the bosom’ as a confirmation of their faith. If that is all two opposing views can offer, they seem to cancel one another out in my opinion. 

Why should a church engage in apologetics? Why should pastors teach apologetics? Why should youth groups be exposed to apologetics? There are several reasons:

  • 1 Peter 3:15
  • It builds the faith of believers. 
  • It feeds certain congregation members who may be more evidentially minded in their faith.
  • It prepares youth to hear arguments, reasoning, and conclusions counter to their faith. The first time they listen to claims counter to their belief should be before they move away.
  • Those who are confident in their answers are more willing to engage the culture and move beyond their comfort zone of fellow believers in conversation.

Your Style of Evangelism

I recently finished a book titled “Contagious Faith” by Mark Mittelberg. Mittelberg describes five styles of evangelism, and most of us favor one or two of the styles he describes. Not all of us are bible-thumping street evangelists, and to push some in that direction when it is not their natural style of evangelism can be a massive turn-off to sharing their faith. 

Mittelberg also recognizes it is not just a matter of having answers but a spiritual battle. “You see, helping people come to Christ is not just a matter of giving them good information or answers to their questions and objections. Neither is it just about being passionate or persuasive-though all of these can be important. It is, at bottom, a spiritual struggle that is being fought at an unseen level…”1

I recommend Contagious Faith for anyone curious about their natural style of sharing the good news. But no matter what your style of evangelism is, knowing what you believe and why you believe it is essential. 

Whether or not you want to admit it, you are walking the streets with a sword hanging from your hip. You are walking by others who are also armed. These swords are not called foils, epee’s, or sabers 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, sharpen your skills, or remain the same; no better swordsman than you were before you engaged them. Which kind will you be?

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Can You Defend What You Believe? by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached by God to Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Reflective, 2021 pg16 []
Coincidence? I Think Not.

Coincidence? I Think Not.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Above Image by Evgeni Tcherkasski from Pixabay

David Bokovoy on Patheos.com shared, “It doesn’t take too careful a read to determine that from start to finish, the Gospels contain inaccurate historical reconstructions—stories about Jesus’ life and ministry that simply could not have taken place the way they’re depicted.”

An online blogger I came across stated, “I believe the Bible was a collection of stories and nothing more. Kinda like our modern-day sci-fi.”

Richard Carrier from Columbia University wrote, “We have no trustworthy evidence of a physical resurrection, no reliable witnesses. It is among the most poorly attested of historical events.”

Separate Confirming Accounts

Over the years, New Testament scholars have noted instances of ‘undesigned coincidences’ within scripture. What are undesigned coincidences? They are gaps within one writer’s account of an event that are filled in by another writer’s account.

Stealing From God by Christian apologist Frank Turek, lists three examples I will share.

Pilate Enters the Stage

In Luke 23:2-4, the Jews led Jesus to Pilate and accused him of perverting the nation, not paying taxes, and claiming to be Christ the King. In Luke’s account, Pilate asked Jesus directly, “Are you King of the Jews?” and Jesus replied, “It is as you say.” Pilate then turns to the accusers and says, “I find no fault in this Man.”

What? How is it that Jesus admits His guilt, but then Pilate turns and says, “I find no fault in this Man.”? He just admitted it to Pilate’s face. Image in a court of law, the accused admits to stealing, then the judge slams the gavel and says, “Not guilty, case dismissed!”

Take a moment and read John’s account of this event. John 18:33-38

Pilate entered the governor’s courtroom (Praetorium) and asked Jesus if he was King of the Jews. Jesus asked if Pilate wanted to know this or if others had told him. Pilate replied, probably with some disdain, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary put it this way, “Jewish questions I neither understand nor meddle with.”1

Jesus explained that His kingdom is not of this world and was not from here. Pilate asked if he was a king, and Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate replied somewhat rhetorically, “What is truth?” and went outside announcing, “I find no fault in Him at all.”

Frank Turek writes, “John offers information not provided by Luke: Since Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world, He was not challenging Caesar’s rule as accused. Therefore, Pilate found no guilt in Him.”2

Why Fear Archelaus?

Another example of undesigned coincidence is found in Matthew’s account of Joseph’s dream, and when he returned to Israel from Egypt. We will find that Josephus, the Jewish rebel who turned Roman historian, shed light on this some 40 years later.

Matthew 2:22-23 explains that after Herod died, Joseph had a dream while in Egypt to return home to Israel. Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea, and he was afraid to go there. Then he was warned in a dream and turned to the area of Galilee, settling in a town called Nazareth. So why was Joseph afraid of Archelaus? 

Archelaus is only mentioned this single time in all of scripture, so we have no way to answer this question unless we explore outside the Bible.

In the Antiquities of the Jews, written by Josephus, we find in book 9, section 3, that Archelaus sent a regiment of armed men to put down a disturbance. But unfortunately, these men were all attacked, and most were stoned to death by the Jews. 

A few of these men escaped to report what happened, so Archelaus then sent a much larger force, “Now Archelaus thought there was no way to preserve the entire government…so he sent out the whole army upon them, and sent the horsemen to prevent those that had their tents without the temple from assisting those that were within the temple…”3 Josephus writes that 3,000 Jews were killed in this attack to put down a rebellion.

Considering the turmoil and the number of Jews killed by Herod’s son Archelaus, it should be no surprise that Joseph did not want to return there and was afraid of Archelaus.

Philips Stomping Grounds

Another example of an undesigned coincidence involves the feeding of the 5000. Read John 6:5. Jesus and his disciples were near the Sea of Galilee when a great crowd began to follow them. This is because of the miracles Jesus had been performing on those who had diseases. Sitting with His disciples, Jesus asked Philip where they could purchase bread for the crowd to eat. Why would Jesus ask Philip? He had a dozen disciples, and He could have asked them all that question, as He had done before, but John records He specifically asked Philip. Why?

Earlier in John 1:44, we learn that Philip was from Bethsaida. What is significant about Bethsaida? In Luke and only Luke, we find that Bethsaida is where the feeding of the 5000 took place. So, of course, Jesus would ask Philip because Philip was in his own stomping grounds. When you put together the accounts of John and Luke, you see another coincidence that would only have occurred if these historical narratives had been written by men who not only knew Jesus but knew each other. Men who ate together worked together and lived together.

Did John the Baptist Rise Again?

The final example comes from Lydia McGrew and her book titled Hidden In Plain View. In Matthew, we find Herod had been hearing about Jesus and was concerned it was John the Baptist who had returned from the dead. Not only may he had been feeling guilty, but his fear got the best of him. Matthew wrote, “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.'” Matthew 14:1-2

I can remember reading this passage as a young Christian and thinking to myself, how is it that Matthew would know what King Herod had been saying to his servants. This passage is similar to Mark 6:16, where Mark wrote that King Herod was concerned that Jesus was John who had risen from the dead. 

The answer to this is found in Luke 8:1-3 “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”

Joanna, the wife of Herod’s manager, was a close follower of Jesus and obviously shared some of the things Herod had said or was saying about Jesus, and she heard these things through her husband who was Herod’s household manager.((McGrew Lydia. Hidden In Plain View. Chillicothe: DeWard, 2017. Print.))

These examples and so much more point to the reliability of the Gospel accounts. Undesigned coincidences score high in giving authentic accounts of the life and times of Christ. These overlapping isolated facts from the disciples and others point to an accurate representation of Jesus and His followers. 

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Undesigned coincidences by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Jamieson, Robert., Fausset A.R., Brown, David. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. Print. []
  2. Turek, Frank. Stealing From God. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2014. Print. []
  3. Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print. []
The Center of Attention

The Center of Attention

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Above Image by press 👍 and ⭐ from Pixabay

Nicolaus Copernicus

In the early 1500s, around the time Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel, and Balboa was sailing into the Pacific, Nicolaus Copernicus, the father of modern astronomy, wrote something that would rumble in the halls of science for centuries.((Hirshfeld, Alan W. Parallax The Race To Measure The Cosmos. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.))

Copernicus was an Italian astronomer that may have been the first to consider, if not the first to suggest in the written word, that the earth was not the center of the universe. “What appears to us as motions of the Sun arise not from its motion but from the motions of the earth.”((Hirshfeld, Alan W. Parallax The Race To Measure The Cosmos. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.)) 

Imagine, centuries ago, when science was limited to what we could observe with the naked eye, someone suggesting that the earth, the very pillar we stand on, actually moved. Yet, our everyday experiences told us otherwise. Every day of their lives, everyone, everywhere, saw the sun rise and the sun set. This simple observation is backed up by the scripture. Psalm 113:3 Isaiah 45:6 Yet Copernicus was suggesting otherwise.

Galileo Galilei

Roughly 40 years after Copernicus first wrote about and began to explore our solar system, another significant character in history came into this world. His name was Galileo, and he was born on February 15, 1564. Many today view Galileo as the secular saint who was forced to deny his astronomical findings by the Church. Some have written that Galileo was tried as a heretic or tortured until he would renounce his findings. In his book Cosmos, Carl Sagan wrote that Galileo was in a Catholic dungeon threatened with torture unless he recanted his heretical views.((Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. New York: Random House, 1980. Print)) Christopher Hitchens, in his book, God is not Great, put it this way, “Galileo might have been unmolested in his telescopic work if he had not been so unwise as to admit that it had cosmological implications.”1

A few years back, my son handed me a book by Kris Vallotton, one of the head pastors of Bethel Church in Redding, California. The book was titled Moral Revolution The Naked Truth about Sexual Purity, and he was interested in what I would think about it, so I took the weekend to read it.

Without turning this into a book review, I will share what Vallotten wrote in his brief mention of Galileo, “In the early 1600s, a scientist named Galileo, through the invention of the telescope, observed that the earth revolved around the sun and not the sun around the earth. The Catholic Church was the political force of that day, and Galileo’s scientific discovery was opposed to the Church’s theology, so the Pope tried him as a heretic. The Church authorities forced him to renounce his discoveries and placed him under house arrest, where he lived out the last years of his life.”((Vallotton, Kris. Vallotton, Jason. Moral Revolution The Naked Truth about Sexual Purity. Minneapolis: Chosen, 2012. Print.)) Vallotton went on to say how the Catholic Church relegated the public to ignorance and lies via a highly developed system of punishment.

Galileo was never tried as a heretic, not by the Pope or anyone else.

The Church and Galileo

Galileo had two meetings with the Vatican over the years. The first meeting in 1616 was about Galileo’s lectures supporting the heliocentric view (the view that the earth revolved around the sun). It was a warm welcome by the Catholic Church since Galileo was famous and well respected. While there, he stayed at the grand Medici Villa, meeting with the Pope and other cardinals more than once.((D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print.))

Cardinal Bellarmine was head of the investigation and was quite familiar with Galileo’s view. Bellarmine was no slouch to the science of that day, and wrote a letter that said if the earth did revolve around the sun, and not the sun around the earth, “…we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of scripture which appear to teach the contrary.”2 

Sounds reasonable don’t you think? Bellarmine went on, “…this is not a thing to be done in haste, and as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me.”((Brodrick, James. Robert Bellarmine Saint and Scholar. West Monasterii, London: Newman Press, 1961. Print.))

Essentially Bellarmine was saying, make sure you are correct, then we can revisit scripture and consider our interpretations. Dinesh D’Souza put it this way in his book, What’s So Great About Christianity, when writing about Bellarmine and Galileo, “This is a model of sensible procedure. Bellarmine assumed that there could be no real conflict between nature and scripture, which is what Christianity has always taught.”3 

So Galileo was told not to push the heliocentric view and returned home. The case was closed, and the findings and conclusion of the church were filed away.

Alan Hirshfeld, in his book Parallax, tells the story of how we came to measure distant stars. Hirshfeld wrote, “Galileo laid the blame for the papal restrictions not on the Church, but on the conservative Aristotelian philosophers who had precipitated the Pope’s action, [Galileo wrote] ‘They have endeavored to spread the opinion that such Copernican propositions in general are contrary to the Bible and are consequently damnable and heretical…'”((Hirshfeld, Alan. Parallax The Race To Measure The Cosmos. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.))

Not the Sharpest Tac in the Box

The second meeting took place about 16 years later after Galileo published a book in 1632 with two leading figures, the Pope and Galileo. In his book, the Pope and Galileo debated the heliocentric view, and Galileo gave the Pope the name of ‘Simplicio,’ which means ‘simpleton’ in Italian. Not the smartest of moves. Imagine providing testimony in a courtroom and insulting the judge’s intelligence presiding over your case. Galileo may have been brilliant, but he obviously lacked some common sense. Of course, we are talking about the Pope. 

In Galileo’s defense, the Pope at that time was a personal friend of Galileo, previously known as Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, now Pope Urban VIII. I would imagine that Galileo felt he had much more freedom to express his views on the sun being the center of our solar system rather than the earth. Galileo erred in the length of his leash. 

After the book was published, Galileo returned to Rome to meet with the Inquisition. The consensus was that Galileo was undermining the authority and teachings of the church. In addition, notes from Bellarmine years before were found, which compounded the event. It became clear that Galileo had already been told not to push the heliocentric view. Galileo was told to recant his views, which he did, and was placed under house arrest.

Yes, house arrest. The first five months in the palace of the archbishop of Siena (must have been difficult), and then he returned home to his villa in Florence.((D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print.)) He was allowed to visit his daughters and continue his research. He died of natural causes nine years later.

The False Narrative

What was interesting to me is Vallotton is citing the NOVA special found on PBS.org. Sources that would be fair to say have a liberal slant on almost every issue. To be clear, I am not saying that just because he cited information from a leftist source, it should be dismissed as inaccurate. What I am saying is, when you research history, don’t limit yourself; move beyond PBS, ushistory.org, the dailymail.co.uk, and Wikipedia. Many of these references and most news sources will have a left-leaning and will put the Church in a negative light, including Christianity. 

Texts books you find in Jr. High and Highschool imply science and religion are at odds because science deals with facts and religion deals with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus. Science is facts and reality; religion is fantasy and fables. 

So what about the scripture that supports the erroneous view of the world being the center of our universe? John Lennox, the Oxford Professor, wrote, “Rather than scientific language, the Bible often uses phenomenological language – the language of appearance. It describes what everyone can see. It talks about the sun rising just as everyone else does, including scientists, even though they know that the sun only appears to rise because of the rotation of the earth. Saying that the sun “rises” does not commit the Bible, or a scientist for that matter, to any particular model of the solar system.”((Lennox, John. Seven Days That Divide The World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print))

Science and Christianity are not at odds with one another. It is disappointing to see Christian leaders fall prey to the secular historical spin pushed since Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands. It is bad enough that most public school books will push the same storyline that Galileo was tried as a heretic, tortured, or lived in squalor because of his published views. The Church vs. science, facts vs. faith, is what the world wants you to believe, but don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Sometimes religion does talk about things that science talks about, specifically the origin of life, creation, and the heavens. Therefore, what you choose to believe has tremendous implications on your life and the purpose of your existence. 

The earth does not have to be the center of the universe to be the center of God’s attention. – John Lennox

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Center of Attention by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great-How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette Book Company, 2007. Print. []
  2. Brodrick, James. Robert Bellarmine Saint and Scholar. West Monasterii, London: Newman Press, 1961. Print. []
  3. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print. []
Stealing Jesus

Stealing Jesus

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

The resurrection story has several theories that you might hear from those who don’t embrace the Christian view. One of the more common ones is the stolen body theory. When you consider the possibilities of who would have stolen his body, it falls into three categories: the Romans, the Jewish authorities, and the disciples. 

The Romans

After the crucifixion, Pilate ordered that Jesus’ tomb be guarded so someone would not steal the body and claim he came back to life. He did this because the chief priests and Pharisees were worried someone would steal his body. They had recalled that Jesus said He would rise again after three days, they shared their concern with Pilate. “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. Matthew 27:65 

So the question is, what motive would the Romans have for stealing the body? Indeed, they did not want any more trouble with the Jews than they already had. Besides, after the resurrection claim, the disciples began to preach the Good News boldly and without fear. Obviously, this angered many Jews. The Romans were in charge of keeping peace in Palestine, and had the Romans been the ones to steal the body, they certainly could have produced it. The evidence of the body would have shut up the claims of the disciples.((Story, Dan. The Christian Combat Manual. Chattanooga: AMG, 2007. Print.)) The problem was, the Romans could not produce a body.  

The Jews

What would motivate the Jewish leaders into stealing the body of Jesus? They were the ones who approached Pilate with concerns about someone stealing the body. The Jews were the ones who ensured the tomb was secure with a posted guard. Matthew 27:62-66 The Jewish leaders did not want anyone, least of all the disciples, making claims that Jesus had risen from the dead after three days.  

After the resurrection, many Jews became Christians, and if the chief priests and Pharisees had stolen the body, possibly so the disciples could not steal it first and claim He rose, they would have produced it to end the foolishness of this new cult. 

In Acts 4:1-3, Peter and John were arrested because they claimed Jesus had been resurrected. The elders and chief priests were amazed at how bold yet uneducated Peter and John were but were unable to persuade them to stop announcing the resurrection of Christ. Acts 4:13 

David Limbaugh, author of Jesus On Trial wrote concerning the stolen body theory, “Also, Matthew 28:11-15 relates that the Jews proposed an alternative theory for the empty tomb (“tell the people the disciples stole the body”), which proves they didn’t dispute that it was, in fact, empty.”1

If the body remained in the tomb, then the Jewish leaders would have simply had the Roman guards roll the stone and deliver the body of Jesus as decisive proof that He was still dead. If there was a body, history has not recorded any debate or dispute over the identification of Jesus’ body. Quite the contrary, the discussion revolved around the disappearance of the body, not its identification. 

The Disciples

Many have claimed and still do, that the disciples stole the body to gain power, influence, and celebrity status. Limbaugh wrote, “The disciples had nothing to gain by staging some elaborate hoax in order to start a new religion; in fact, they all faced ridicule, hardship, persecution, and many suffered martyrs’ deaths.”((Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282)) So for some reason, the disciples stole the body of their Lord so they could be beaten, abused, insulted, stoned, beheaded, and crucified.

There have been claims that Romans blamed the disciples, but how would they know? How would he know who took the body if the guard was sleeping? How could the disciples have gotten past him if he was not sleeping? The penalty for either would have been death for the Roman guard. 

We have accounts of Christian martyrs who have died for their faith in Christ over the centuries, but in recent years, we have had evidence of others dying for their faith. For example, the Taliban and the suicide bombers have made headline news hundreds of times since the 911 attacks. They obviously believe and are willing to die for their belief. But there is a significant difference between dying for what you believe to be true, and dying for what you know to be true. 

The disciples knew they did not steal the body and also knew no one else had a reason to. They experienced firsthand evidence in seeing, talking to, and touching their resurrected Lord. Mary Magdalene saw, heard, and touched Christ. John 20:10-18. In Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23, other disciples saw, heard, and touched Christ. In John 20:24-31, eleven apostles saw, heard, and touched Christ.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway 2004, Print.)) These close followers knew their Lord and were willing to die for him. Not for what they believed to be true, but for what they knew to be true. 

William Lane Craig wrote, “One of the most remarkable facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified. So long as the people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe such nonsense as that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”2 

The burden of proof was on the Romans and the Jewish leaders, and apparently, no one could produce a body because He had risen. Craig continued, “The disciples could not have believed in Jesus’ resurrection if His corpse still lay in the tomb. It would have been wholly un-Jewish, not to say stupid, to believe that a man was raised from the dead when his body was known to be still in the grave.”2 Even if the disciples had boldly professed the resurrection out of ‘blind-faith’ once someone produced the body, this new religion would have died right then and there.  

Finally, in his book, Know What You Believe, Paul Little points out that people will die for many things they believe to be true. I have already pointed out the 911 attacks and the belief of those terrorists but flip the coin. How many people do you know that will die for something they ‘know’ is false?((Little, Paul. Know What You Believe. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2003. Print.))

The Roman and Jews could not produce the body, but the disciples would have wanted to, if doing so would have saved them from beatings, stonings, and crucifixions. 

Have you talked about the resurrection with your children beyond Easter eggs, ham, and family gatherings? Or the church activities that go beyond children making little paper tombs that represent the empty tomb? How much more impactful would it be if you sat down with your young children and gave them something beyond what seems to be the annual Easter bedtime story and shared the evidence of the resurrection with them?

Since birth, today’s teens and young adults have been saturated with market media. They recognize, but may not be able to articulate, the world’s sales pitch to purchase everything from cereal to shoes. Religion, specifically Christianity, markets ideas as much as Ford selling the F150 and General Mills selling Lucky Charms. So if you don’t want the Christian ideas to end up in the ‘junk mail’ folder or being ‘unfriended,’ you better give them reasons for the sale beyond what is typically offered. 

Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, wrote, “We must make truth touchable. The Good News must be as tangible as the wood of a cross. Without a visible expression, words like transformation, grace, and radical discipleship will be quickly dismissed as just another hyperbolic sales pitch.”3

The apostles were not adverse to giving reasons or evidence for their faith. 1John 1:1-2 With some guidance, our children can move beyond the Walmart end caps full of colorful eggs and white bunnies to explain why they celebrate what we recognize as the truth of the resurrection to their unchurched or unbelieving peers at school. Go beyond the Easter egg hunt and give them reasons for believing. 

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Stealing Jesus by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282 []
  2. Craig, William L. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2010. Print [] []
  3. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me – Why Young Christians are Leaving Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print. []
Christianity and Circumstantial Evidence

Christianity and Circumstantial Evidence

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Above Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What Teens Notice

Over the years, as I taught Jr. High, I have taken the opportunity to ask my students questions that would encourage them to think. One of the questions I have asked repeatedly over the years was, “If you could ask God any one thing, what would you ask him?” One of the more common replies has been, “How long will the human race last?” Notice it was not IF they will last, but how long. This reply gives us some insight into how teens view the world. Despite their obsession with how they dress in the morning, or how well their favorite sports team did in the playoffs, some do have an insightful understanding of the plight of our civilization. 

This reply has not come from students attending Christian schools but Jr. High students in public schools. It has become evident to them that something is broken, and despite adults’ efforts to fix it, there is not any light at the end of the tunnel. It has been a few years since I have taught Jr. High, but the broken world has become even more evident to anyone who pays attention to the world around them. 

It is true, many teens may not know who the current vice president is. However, as they read their history books, hear, and watch about our current world state of affairs, it has become apparent that humans, on the whole, are in a downward spiral that will only have one possible outcome. That much should be evident for anyone who looks at the world around them. 

Yet, over the years, in some Christian circles, there seems to be the belief humanity is getting better. Some believe that Christians will usher in heaven, and without our efforts to create some utopia or heaven on earth, Christ will not return. This view is called Postmillennialism and is an in-house debate among Christians, but it is fair to say that theologians and those who study Eschatology don’t agree. 

Most teens and young adults probably don’t think about it in these terms, but they are simply making a prediction to determine an outcome using evidence they have seen or experienced.

Types of Evidence

When you find yourself on a jury, the judge may take a few moments and explain the difference between the two types of evidence you might encounter. Direct and circumstantial evidence are types of evidence you have probably heard of. People often think that circumstantial evidence is weak or somehow less valid than direct evidence, but many successful criminal cases have been prosecuted with circumstantial evidence alone. 

The metaphor “smoking gun” refers to circumstantial evidence and is more powerful than many give credit. An example of circumstantial evidence would be if you walked into a room and saw a man holding a bloody knife, standing over another man who happened to be dead on the floor due to stab wounds. Of course, you did not see him murder the man on the floor, but the placement of the standing man and his knife suggests it. 

On the other hand, direct evidence would be if you walked into the room and actually saw the man with the knife stab the man on the floor. Obviously, the direct evidence is more powerful, but cumulative circumstantial evidence can, in some ways, be just as compelling. 

Say the two men had a history of violence, and the man with the knife had threatened the dead man the day before, which was witnessed by others; now you have significant circumstantial evidence. 

You may remember two well-known cases which were successfully prosecuted with circumstantial evidence. Timothy McVeigh, who was found guilty of bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City, and Scott Peterson, convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son in Modesto, California, in 2002. 

Circumstantial evidence can include fingerprints, tape recordings, video recordings, photos, letters, documents, and many other types of physical evidence. In some ways, circumstantial evidence can have an advantage over direct evidence since it can come from multiple sources, which fortify each other. If the case relies on a single piece of direct evidence that is discredited, the case is lost.

Evidence for the Resurrection

The evidence for the resurrection is circumstantial but powerful. So powerful that millions have dedicated their lives to Christ, and some have even given up their life for Him. 

Nevertheless, I don’t think that being a martyr is evidence for the truth of a religion. Martyrdom is just evidence that the individual believes wholeheartedly in their cause. Indeed, the Muslims who flew into the twin towers believed in Islam and believed they were on their way to paradise, but that does not make it true.

Some brief evidence that points to the truth of the resurrection would include:

  • The first witnesses of the risen Christ were women. That in itself is amazing since women were 2nd class citizens; a women’s testimony was not even considered admissible in court in ancient Jerusalem.
  • For centuries, following the resurrection, tens of thousands gave their lives to Christ and were willing to die for their belief. As I said above, this is not evidence for the truth, but what is significant is that the disciples were eyewitnesses. They were the eyewitness to the truth of the resurrection and were willing to die for what they had witnessed with their own eyes. That cannot be emphasized enough; the disciples were willing to die for what they saw, not just what they believed to be true.
  • We have testimony from multiple independent eyewitness sources. The New Testament is compiled from 27 different documents and nine different authors.
  • The testimony contains events or details that are embarrassing to the authors. If the resurrection event were a story that some made up, then most often, those telling the story would include false information that would put the authors in a positive light. The opposite is true, as the authors document events that show how they acted stupidly, selfishly, and cowardly.
  • Do we have any enemy accounts? Yes: Josephus’, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and several other offer historical reports.
  • New Testament writers include divergent details. For example, Matthew says one angel was at the tomb while John says there were two. How would this strengthen an eyewitness account? Like any event with multiple eyewitness accounts, they do not necessarily agree on the details. Had the authors of the New Testament collaborated to match their accounts, it would have been obvious and damaged their testimony.

The list above is far from complete, but it should give you an idea that the evidence for the resurrection is quite powerful. 

Evidence from Real Life Stories

We use evidence every day, every hour, every moment of our lives, and how we weigh the evidence presented determines our actions, from opening the fridge to get the cold milk for our cereal or opening the freezer to thaw the ground beef. Some of you may have experienced opening a refrigerator that was not working; the stench can be overpowering and hang in the air for hours, something not soon forgotten. However, if we did not have the consistent, day-to-day experience of successfully using the fridge to keep things cold, we would not use it. 

Sometimes the evidence we have is a singular life-changing event. So impactful, nothing is the same after the experience. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, is an extraordinary story of a World War II bombardier Louis Zamperini, shot down and captured by the Japanese. His distinct, permanent, transformative event occurred after his horrific experiences as a Japanese prisoner during World War II. 

It is truly amazing what humans can endure by willpower alone, but what is even more awe-inspiring is the healing power and saving grace of our Lord. Zamperini suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese, but one particular Japanese prison guard, nicknamed “The Bird,” was the worst of all. The Bird’s beatings, whippings, and inhuman abuse to Zamperini lasted till the end of the war.

When Louis returned home, his life began to fall apart as he drank himself into oblivion, suffering from horrible flashbacks and nightmares. Louis was on a mission to hunt down and kill the Bird when his wife talked him into attending a Billy Graham crusade. It was there that Louis Zamperini gave his life to Christ and experienced nothing short of a miraculous healing; he never suffered from another flashback or nightmare, he stopped drinking, and God healed his marriage.

Louis had no prior experience to base his miraculous healing. When he gave his life to Christ that night in a hot sweltering tent, it was not like opening the fridge for the umpteenth time with an expectation of pulling out a cold soda. He had no expectations at all, only a compelling notion that he had to walk forward and accept Christ in his life. Unlike the old T.V. show, Let’s Make a Deal, where constants had to choose what was behind door number 1, 2, or 3, knowing something was behind those doors, Louis had no such anticipation. He only knew he had to walk through that door but was oblivious to the instantaneous, miraculous healing behind it.

Louis’s experience is direct evidence, unmistakable because of his transformed life, and his is not the only story of an altered life. The 2017 movie The Case for Christ is just one more example. The evidence is there; you don’t need blind faith or to take a leap of faith. All you need to do is follow where the evidence leads you. 

While we are often willing to spend time reading the Bible, praying, or participating in church programs and services, few of us recognize the importance of becoming good Christian case makers.― J. Warner Wallace, A Homicide Detective and author of Cold-Case Christianity.

…there are highly intelligent, eminent scientists, such as Professor William Phillips (Physics Nobel Prizewinner 1998), Professor John Polkinghorne FRS (Quantum Physicist, Cambridge), and the current Director of the National Institute of Health and former Director of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis Collins (to name just three) who,…without either embarrassment or any sense of irrationality or absurdity, affirm their belief in the supernatural, and in particular in the resurrection of Christ, which they regard as the supreme evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview. – John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University.

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