|By: Dr. John Ankerberg / Dr. John Weldon; ©2005|
|Part Two of Drs. Ankerberg and Weldon’s look at the question, “What is the Only Remedy for Sin?“|
What is the Only Remedy for Sin? Part Two
In “The Value of an Evidential Approach” William J. Cairney (Ph.D., Cornell), discusses some of the possibilities that constitute genuine evidence for the fact God has inspired the Bible and the Christianity based on it:
- History Written in Advance. We can all write history in retrospect, but an almighty, omnipotent, Creator would not be bound by our notions of space and time, and would thus be able to write history before it occurs. Suppose that we encountered a sourcebook that contained page after page of history written in advance with such accuracy and in such detail that good guessing would be completely ruled out.
- Prescience. Suppose that in this same sourcebook, we were able to find accurate statements written ages ago demonstrating scientific knowledge and concepts far before mankind had developed the technological base necessary for discovering that knowledge or those concepts….
- Historical Evidence. Suppose that in this same sourcebook, we were to find historical assertions that time after time were verified as true as historical scholarship continued….
- Archeological Evidence. Suppose that in this same sourcebook, statements that are difficult to verify are made about people and places, but as archeology “unearths” more knowledge of the past, time after time the sourcebook is seen to be true in its assertions.
- Philosophical And Logical Coherence Suppose that this same sourcebook, even though written piecemeal over thousands of years, contains well-developed common themes and is internally consistent.
- And suppose all of these evidences hang together without internal contradiction or literary stress within the same anthology. Collectively, we could not take these evidences lightly.
Overall, the evidence strongly asserts that Christianity is true whether that evidence is internal (the documents), philosophical, moral, historical, scientific, archeological, or when compared with the evidence found in other religions. For example, “The competence of the New Testament documents would be established in any court of law” and “Modern archeological research has confirmed again and again the reliability of New Testament geography, chronology, and general history.”
Further, as the noted classical scholar Professor E. M. Blaiklock points out, “Recent archeology has destroyed much nonsense and will destroy more. And I use the word nonsense deliberately, for theories and speculations find currency in [liberal] biblical scholarship that would not be tolerated for a moment in any other branch of literary or historical criticism.”
In essence, only Christianity meets the burden of proof necessary to say, “This religion alone is fully true.” And no one can argue successfully that
Christianity has not been thoroughly investigated: As the 5th edition of Man’s Religions by John B. Noss points out, “The first Christian century has had more books written about it than any other comparable period of history. The chief sources bearing on its history are the gospels and epistles of the New Testament, and these— again we must make a comparative statement—have been more thoroughly searched by inquiring minds than any other books ever written.”
Among many possible converging lines of evidence for Christianity we have elected two. We feel these will command the attention of any open-minded person.
First, the existence of supernatural prophecy in the Bible cannot be denied except on the basis of philosophical (anti-supernatural) bias. For example, the internal and external evidence clearly supports a pre-neo-Babylonian composition for the book of Isaiah and a neo-Babylonian composition for the book of Daniel. Yet Isaiah predicts and describes what King Cyrus will do (by name) over 100 years before he even lived (Isa. 44:28-45:6).
Isaiah described the specific nature and death of the Jewish Messiah 700 years in advance (Isa. 9:6; 53:1-12); and the Babylonian captivity of Judah 100 years in advance (Isa. 39:5-7). Indeed, the Assyrian-Babylonian captivities are hinted at as early as 1400 BC in Deuteronomy 28:64-66. Similarly, in 530 BC, hundreds of years in advance, the prophet Daniel (Matt. 24:15) predicts the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires so clearly that antisupernaturalists are forced, against all the evidence, to date this book at 165 B.C. and thus imply it is a forgery (Daniel chs. 2, 7, 11:1-35 in light of subsequent Persian, Greek and Roman history and the dynasties of the Egyptians and Syrians). First Kings 13:1-2 predicts King Josiah 300 years before he was born, and Micah 5:2 predicts the very birthplace of Jesus 700 years before He was born. How are we to account for such things if the Bible is not a book inspired by God? Nothing like this is found in other religions.
Second, the historical resurrection of Christ cannot logically be doubted and if true, based on the teachings of Jesus, proves Christianity alone is fully true. On the authority of accepted principles of historic and textual analysis, the New Testament documents can be shown to be reliable and trustworthy. That is, they give accurate primary source evidence for the life and death of Jesus Christ. In 2,000 years the New Testament authors have never been proven unethical or dishonest, or to have been the object of deception. In the Gospel records, Jesus claimed to be God incarnate (John 5:18; 10:27-33); He exercises innumerable divine prerogatives, and fully rests His claims on His numerous and abundantly testified, historically unparalleled miracles (John 10:37-38) and His forthcoming physical resurrection from the dead (John 10:17-18). No one else ever did this.
In each Gospel, Christ’s resurrection is minutely described, and for 2,000 years it has been incapable of disproof despite the detailed scholarship of the world’s best skeptics. The resurrection cannot be rejected a priori on antisupernaturalist grounds for miracles are impossible only if so defined.
The probability of miracle is determined by the cumulative weight of the evidence, not philosophical bias.
To illustrate the quality of the evidence for the resurrection, a public debate of two days duration was held between Dr. Gary R. Habermas, a Christian scholar, and Antony Flew, a leading skeptic of the resurrection. These men were the two primary debaters. Ten independent judges, all of whom served on the faculty of American universities, were to render a verdict: the first panel of judges was comprised of five philosophers instructed to evaluate the debate content and render a verdict concerning the winner. The second panel of judges were told to evaluate the argumentation technique of the debaters.
The results on content were four votes in favor of the Christian argument one vote for a draw. The decision on argumentation technique was 3 to 2 in favor of the Christian debater. The overall decision of both panels was 7 to 2 in favor of the Christian position, with one draw. The judges were often surprised that the outcome resulted so heavily in favor of the resurrection.
Dr. William Lane Craig gives the following anecdote in The Son Rises:
- “There ain’t gonna be no Easter this year,” a student friend remarked to me. :“Why not?” I asked incredulously.
- “They found the body.”
- Despite his irreverent humor, my friend displayed a measure of insight often not shared by modern [liberal] theologians. His joke correctly perceived that without the resurrection Christianity is worthless.
- The earliest Christians would certainly have agreed with my friend. The apostle Paul put it straight and simple: “If Christ was not raised then neither our preaching nor your faith has any meaning at all…. If Christ did not rise your faith is futile and your sins have never been forgiven” (1 Corinthians 15:14,17, Phillips). For the earliest Christians, Jesus’ resurrection was a historical fact, every bit as real as His death on the cross.
Without the resurrection, Christianity would have been simply false. Jesus would have been just another prophet who had met His unfortunate fate at the hands of the Jews. Faith in Him as Lord, Messiah, or Son of God would have been stupid. There would be no use in trying to save the situation by interpreting the resurrection as some sort of symbol. The cold, hard facts of reality would remain: Jesus was dead and anything He started died with him.
- David C. K. Watson tells the true story of another man who understood this, with tragic consequences. The man was a retired clergyman who in his spare time began to study the thought of certain modern theologians on the resurrection. He read books on the resurrection and watched television talk shows on the subject. In his old age, he felt sure that the highly educated professors and writers new far more than he did and that they were surely right when they said Jesus had not literally risen from the dead. He understood clearly what that meant for him: his whole life and ministry had been based on a bundle of lies. He committed suicide.
- I believe that modern theologians must answer to God for that man’s death. One cannot make statements on such matters without accepting part of the responsibility for the consequences. The average layman probably expects that theologians would be biased in favor of the resurrection, when in fact exactly the opposite is often true. It has not been historians who have denied the historical resurrection of Jesus, but theologians. Why this strange situation?
According to Carl Braaten, theologians who deny the resurrection have not done so on historical grounds; rather theology has been derailed by existentialism and historicism, which have a stranglehold on the formation of theological statements. Hence, the statements of many theologians concerning the resurrection of Jesus actually are not based on fact, but are determined by philosophical assumptions. That makes statements that deny that Jesus’ resurrection was a historical fact all the more irresponsible, for their conclusion has not been determined by the facts, which support the historicity of the resurrection, but by assumptions.
- The point is that the Christian faith stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus. It is no use saying, as some theologians do, “We believe in the risen Christ, not in the empty tomb!”… If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then He was a tragedy and a failure, and no amount of theologizing or symbolizing could change the situation.”
Dr. Craig concludes with the following comments:
- The resurrection of Jesus was an act of God…. Anyone who denies this explanation is rationally obligated to produce a more plausible cause of Jesus’
resurrection and to explain how it happened…
- The resurrection of Jesus confirms His personal claims…
- The resurrection of Jesus shows that He holds the key to eternal life.”
If Jesus rose from the dead, something no one else has done, this strongly infers His claims to be God-incarnate are valid. If so, Jesus is an infallible authority. Yet it was Jesus Himself who taught He was the only way to God (John 14:6). If no one else in history ever rose from the dead, on what logical basis can the claims of Jesus be doubted?
Edward John Carnell once commented that, “The incongruity between man’s desire for life and the reality of physical death is the most maddening problem of all. Although he sees the handwriting on the wall, man yet refuses to think that death is his final destiny…. Man wills to live forever; the urge is written deep in his nature.”
Dr. Francis Beckwith observes:
- Death is man’s most obvious enemy. Therefore is it not reasonable to assume that if the world’s religions, which offer the human race countless abstract utopias in the afterlife, cannot deal with man’s ultimate dilemma in this mortal realm, they are indeed unworthy to be considered alternatives to the awful truth that [in the words of Albert Camus] “the world itself…is but a vast rational”?
- In other words, a religion that is true would be one that defeats death, man’s most detestable foe. Of all the religious leaders previously discussed, only one, Jesus of Nazareth, has conquered the Grim Reaper. Though we will all inevitably die, the fact that Jesus defeated death gives us assurance that His pronouncements on the nature of God, His own Deity, salvation, the afterlife, judgment, sin and righteousness are to be taken most seriously.
Certainly, death puts us all in our place. Yet because God has also “set eternity in [our] heart” (Ecc. 3:11), all men hope to live forever and the thought of death is only rarely considered. As J. C. Ryle noted, “Death is a great fact that all acknowledge, but very few seem to realize” while Ugo Betti wrote in Struggle Till Dawn (Vol. 2, 1949), “Every tiny part of us cries out against the idea of dying and hopes to live forever.” Biblically, of course, all men will live forever; the only question is where they will live.
Our conclusion is that both the miraculous nature of the Bible itself, which speaks for its divine inspiration, Christ’s own resurrection and His infallible pronouncements as God incarnate concerning the true way of salvation are more than sufficient reason to accept the Christian view.
4. The Christian Claim and the Incarnation
In light of our discussion to date, now consider what the divinely inspired Bible and Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, taught about salvation:
- Exodus 20:2-6—I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before Me.
- Isaiah 43:10-11—…before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the Lord; and there is no savior besides Me.
- John 14:6—I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
- John 17:3—And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.
- Acts 4:12—And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.
- 1 Timothy 2:5-6—For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.
Jesus is unique in His love, holiness, authority, majesty, humility, and impact in the world. Among all the religious leaders and founders of past or present, He alone was sinless. And to be without sin means you are incapable of telling a lie and always tell the truth. When He said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), he was speaking the truth.
When you remove Christ from Christianity there is no Christianity because Jesus is not a way, a truth and a life, but the way, the truth and the life. If we remove Muhammad from Islam, Buddha from Buddhism, Brahman and Krishna from Hinduism, etc., the religion and its teachings would remain.
But Christ cannot be removed from Christianity without destroying Christianity.
Christ is unique in His incarnation, His crucifixion, His death and resurrection. He is the only one with an empty tomb because all other religious founders are still in the grave. Further, “The truly amazing thing about the Incarnation is that this doctrine of God really becoming man is proclaimed precisely by that religion which affirms an indelible distinction between God the Creator and man His creature, while all religions that assume the essential identity of God and man indignantly reject it.”
In what other religion in the world do we find an incarnation like this or even an incarnation at all? At best, there is the idolatrous religion of Jainism which only claims the incarnation (from a polytheistic heaven) of its god and founder, Mahavira. But, in fact, Mahavira himself denied theism and condemned the practice of praying to or even having discussions about God.
The only other conceivable shadow of the biblical concept of incarnation is found in Hinduism. But here the incarnations are forever cyclical, and just as forever meaningless. The Hindu gods’ incarnations are, finally, also part of the duality and maya (illusion) of the world and never redemptive in the sense of a propitiatory atonement.
There is no concept of incarnation in Buddhist belief unless we consider the alleged Buddha nature supposedly inherent in all men to be an “incarnation” of a
mythically deified Buddha.
Judaism has no incarnation; in Judaism the idea of Jesus as the incarnate Son of God is harshly rejected.
Taoism has only an impersonal principal, the Tao, as an ultimate reality and no need or place for an incarnation.
In Sikhism, Guru Nanak taught that God is unborn and non-incarnated. In Parsism (Zoroastrianism) the god Ahura Mazda is not incarnated.
In Islam the thought of an incarnation is blasphemous.
In Confucianism, Confucius acknowledged himself as only a sinful man, although he was later worshipped. But he was never incarnate.
Of the 11 or 12 classical world religions, there is no concept of incarnation except in Jainism and Hinduism and both of these involve nothing more than myths.
In the words of G. K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man, the incarnation of Christ “makes nothing but dust and nonsense of comparative religion.” Thus, Chesterton was right when he asserted that only the Apostles have good news for the rest of the world: “Nobody else except those messengers has any Gospel; nobody else has any good news, for the simple reason that nobody else has any news.”
Adherents of other religions often claim that their religious founders are unique, but the uniqueness is either invented or contrived. Where is the proof of uniqueness? There is none because the founders of other religions all acknowledge themselves as sinful men, despite the subsequent worship or deification given them by their followers. Certainly one might at least ask whether or not such embellishment is fair. Is it expressing adequate reverence for one’s own religious founder to make him into something he never claimed to be, and, indeed, would probably be horrified to learn of?
In essence, no one can rationally deny the “stubborn fact that non-Christian religions are radically different from Christianity.” All the other gods men worship are either 1) amoral or evil—i.e., they are not holy, just and righteous; 2) impersonal—i.e., they can not love or express personal interest in one’s welfare; or 3)they annihilate their followers—i.e., they destroy one eternally rather than offer one a free gift of eternal life. Indeed, for those who want a God who is truly just and loving, who truly cares and proved His love for mankind (at the cross), a God who offers genuine personal immortality solely as a free gift, there are not 11 or 12 different choices. The simple fact is, there is only one choice: the biblical God.
If everyone is really searching for God anyway, this means Christians do not have to be intimidated by witnessing to friends and strangers. Christians have what others truly need—and in their heart of hearts non-Christians know it, or at least suspect it. If God says that He has made the knowledge of Himself clear to everyone, then there is no possibility of our being a failure, regardless of another person’s response.
Riches of the spirit are worth far more to people than riches of the world. In today’s society, in even the most wealthy country on earth, most people and families feel financially pinched. Almost every parent would say that they need more money, or at least that they could certainly use it.
But even if, like that old TV series “The Millionaire”, we could give a person a tax free check for a million dollars, what would that be in comparison to the loss of their own soul? Jesus clearly emphasized this when he warned, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matt. 16:26)?
In conclusion, the single greatest need any person has is salvation for their soul. All other things that they think they need, or actually need, whether it be happiness, money, health, children, success— whatever—mean absolutely nothing if in the end they never inherit salvation:
- For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
- If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:9-13)
- William J. Cairney, “The Value of an Evidential Approach,” in Montgomery (ed.), Evidence for Faith, p. 21.
- Montgomery, “The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity” in Montgomery (ed.), Evidence for Faith, pp. 322, 326.
- E. M. Blaiklock, Christianity Today, Sept. 28, 1973, p. 13.
- John B. Noss, Man’s Religions, 5th ed. (NY: MacMillan, 1974), p. 417.
- Bruce K. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” in Roy B. Zuck (gen. ed.), Vital Apologetic Issues: Examining Reason and Revelation in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1995), pp. 194-203; for Daniel and Isaiah see Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, Rev. 1974).
- See the commentaries on Daniel by John F. Walvoord, Charles Lee Feinberg and H. C. Leupold.
- The details are given in Terry L. Miethe, ed., Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? The Resurrection Debate (Harper & Row, 1987).
- William Lane Craig, The Son Rises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), pp. 135-136.
- Ibid., p. 136.
- In Francis Beckwith, Baha’i (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany 1985), citing E. J. Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics (Eerdman’s, 1948), pp. 24-25.
- Ibid., p. 41.
- Quoting Hendrik Kraemer in Culpepper, “The Incarnation in the Dialogue of Religions,” Review and Expositor, Christology issue, Winter 1974, p. 76.
- Robert E. Hume, The World’s Living Religions (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, rev. 1959), pp. 49- 50.
- See the discussion in Ibid., passim.
- Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, p. 272.
- Ibid., p. 274.
- J. I. Packer, “Are NonChristian Faiths Ways of Salvation?”, Bibliotheca Sacra, April 1973, p. 113.