Category Archives: Apologetics

Is Jesus the Messiah? An Outline on Jewish Messianism

The Messiah Concept

1. What does the word Messiah mean? Messiah means “Anointed One” (Heb. messiah) (Gk. Christos) and  is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.”

2.The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings ( 1 Sam 10:1 ; 2 Sam 2:4 ; 1 Kings 1:34 ), and sometimes prophets ( 1 Kings 19:16b ) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. “Anointed One” almost never refers to the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible.

3. The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.

4. Remember that words and concepts are separate entities. “Word-bound” approaches to what really are concept studies can lead us astray.

5. The image of the Messiah and the idea of messianism comprise a broad concept that far outreaches the few instances where the term “anointed” is used. It is the concept that we are seeking to define, not merely one particular word.  This can only be achieved by reading not only the Bible but extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Targumim, etc. (see Craig Evans handout on Introduction to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies).

6. Before 70 CE, we can hardly find any occurrence of the absolute term “the Messiah”; instead the word in Greek or Hebrew occurs with a genitive or possessive pronoun like “Messiah of Israel,” “Messiah of the Lord,” “Messiah of Aaron,” “Messiah of the Lord,” etc;  no single meaning is ever assumed.

7. Other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include  “Son of David,” “ Son of God,” “ Son of Man,” “  Prophet,” “Elect One,” “Servant,” “ Prince,” “ Branch,” “Root,” “Scepter,” “Star,”  “Chosen One,” and “ Coming One.” (See section on messianic titles).

The Messianic Task:  Traditional Jewish Views

1. A personal Messiah is irrelevant; many Jewish people don’t see the need for a Messiah to fix the problems of the world.

2.  The Messiah is not divine-he is an earthy figure “anointed” to carry out a specific task.

3. The Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.

4.  The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9).

5. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

 The Maimonides view of Messiah: Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:

1.  The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David

2.  He helps Israel follow Torah

3.  He builds the Temple in its place

4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel

 The Messiah in Rabbinical Literature

1Messiah Ben Yossef and Messiah Ben David: The prophecy of Zech. 12:10 is applied to Messiah ben Yossef in that he is killed and that it will be followed by a time of great calamities and tests for Israel. Shortly after these tribulations upon Israel, Messiah ben David will come and avenge the death of Messiah ben Yossef, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace.

2.What is interesting is that R. Saadiah Gaon elaborated on the role of Messiah ben Yossef by starting that this sequence of events is contingent. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef will not have to appear before Messiah be David if the spiritual condition of Israel is up to par.

3.This is why it says in the Talmud, “If they [the people of Israel]  are worthy of [the Messiah] he will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’ [Dan 7:13] ;if they are not worthy, ‘lowly and riding upon a donkey’ [Zech. 9:9]” (b. Sanhedrin 98a

Messianic Fulfillment Depends on Moral Regeneration

1. The advent of Messiah will not be heralded by the actions of a pagan or Christian king.

2. Israel’s salvation depends on Israel itself.

3.The Messiah will be a sage who will only come when Israel fully accepts God’s sole rule.

4.The coming of the Messiah is not dependent on historical action but on moral regeneration. How about reading John 3:3-8?

 The Davidic Messiah

The capitalized term “Messiah” is often confined to a precisely delineated concept, viz., the anointed king of the Davidic dynasty who would establish in the world the definite kingdom intended by God for Israel. Such a notion of the Messiah is the product of a long development traceable in three stages:

First Stage: Before Eighth Century BC

1. God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17:6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15)

2. Gen 49:9-12: alludes implicitly to the reign of David; this prophecy says the Messiah will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.

3. The Davidic Covenant: David is promised that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps. 89:28-37). In 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come.

4. The Royal Psalms:Psalm 2;72;110 are considered part of this first stage of messianism.

Second Stage:  Eighth Century BC to the Babylonian Exile

1. Messianic Expectation centers on the re-establishment of the throne of David and deliverance of Israel from its foreign oppressors.

2. This expectation resulted from disappointment at the destruction of Jerusalem and suspension of Davidic dynasty.

3. Isaiah: speaks of the time when God that would revive the Davidic dynasty and ensure its permanence. God would raise up a successor of David who would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), but he is not spoken of as “The Messiah.”

4. Micah 5:1-6 speaks of the new David coming from Bethlehem; Jer.23:5-6 uses messianic titles such as “branch” or “shoot” to describe this figure.

5. Amos likewise proclaimed that a figure would emerge from the Davidic lineage who would fulfill God’s covenant promises to the nations (9:11-15).Ezekiel spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a “prince” and a “king” to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). This king’s function would help restore the Davidic dynasty after the exile.

Third Stage: From the Exile to NT Times           

The Psalms of Solomon (a Pharisaic composition written about 50 B.C.) describes the Davidic messianic expectation: The “Son of David” will:

1. Violently cast out foreign nations occupying Jerusalem (Pss.Sol:15,24-25,33)

2. Judge all the nations of the earth (Pss.17:4;31;38-39, 47) and cause the nations to  “serve him under his yoke” (Pss.Sol.17:32)

3. Reign over Israel in wisdom (Pss. Sol.17:23,28,31,35,41,18:8), which involves  removing all the foreigners from the land (Pss. Sol.17:31) and purging the land of unrighteous Israelites (Pss. Sol. 17:29, 33, 41) in order to eliminate all oppression (Pss. Sol.17:46) and gather to himself a holy people (Pss. Sol.17:28, 36;18:9).

Jesus as The Davidic King

1.  Jesus is of the “seed of David,” who was sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; Rev. 22:16). Jesus  is both the son of David and the one greater than David (Psalm 110:1-4).

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We see the following:

Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).

Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?

2. In following the pattern of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus (as the Davidic King) will return to this present earth and after the complete removal of all man’s kingdoms (cf. Dan 2:35;44;7:13-14; Zech 9:10;14:1-4;9-11;Matt24;27-31;25:31-33; Rev:11:15;19:11-16;20:1-6).

3. Remember Prophetic Telescoping:  Telescoped prophecy bridges the first and second appearances of Yeshua. In the second coming, “the obedience of the nations will be his,” and “His everlasting dominion will not pass away, his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed”; Gen 49:10-12: Dan 2:37-44;7:13-14; Psalm 2: Isa.9-6-7;11:1-10.

Messianic Expectations (cont):  Priestly Messiah: The priest (Heb. cohanim) was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26;31,35;5:6,10; 14:31).

1. There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag:1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech:3:6-10;4:2-5,11-14).

2. In the Qumran community which predated the time of Yeshua was convinced there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22).

3. Forgiving sins was a prerogative of God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9;) and it was something that was done only in the Temple.

4. The Messiah’s priestly work is seen in Psalm 110:1-4.

5. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3 Hebrews 7:13 Hebrews 7:16 ), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood  ( Hebrews 7:11-12 Hebrews 7:17-18 ; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:23 ). Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven ( 8:1 ).

 The Suffering/Atoning Messiah

1. There are several texts that speak to the possibility of a suffering Messiah (Zech 13:7; Dan 9:26; Tg.Isa.53; T.Benj.3:8; 4Q521frgs.9, 24; 4Q285 5.4; 4 Ezra7:29-30;2 Bar.30:1).

2. There are also several expressions of the belief that the death of the righteous will benefit, or even save, God’s people (1 Macc: 6:26-28 17:20-22; T Moses 9-10).

The Prophetic Messiah

1. The characteristics of the prophet (Heb. nabi) of Deuteronomy 18:15-19: (1) He would be an Israelite; (2) he would be like Moses; and (3) he would be authorized to declare the word of God with authority.

2. Emphasis on listening to the Prophet: See Mathew 17:5

3. Jesus says “I say to you,” thirteen times in this one sermon (Matt. 18,20,22,28,32,34,39,44;6:2,5,16,25,29). He even challenged his hearers to base their own lives on his words (Matt. 7:24,26). Yeshua cites not one single rabbi or religious authority. Scholars have found no precedent in the Tanakh, nor have scholars found any precedent in the rest of ancient Jewish literature.

4. Miracles have a distinctive purpose: to glorify the Creator and to provide evidence for people to believe by accrediting the message of God through the prophet of God. Miracles confirmed the prophetic claim: Moses (Ex. 4:1-5; 8-9); Elijah (1 Kings 18:38–39).

5.  Miracles confirmed the Messianic claim of Jesus  (Matt 12: 38-39; John 3: 1-2; Acts 2: 22).

6.  Matt. 11:4-6: Jesus’s evidential claim can be seen in the following syllogism:
1. If one does certain kinds of actions, then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.

Michael Bird’s excellent book Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, has some insight about this issue as well. Bird says:

“It is historically naive to depict first-century Palestine as ravaged with continual uprisings and to posit some Roman occupying forces as having to put down one messianic pretender after another. Alternatively, it is equally reductionistic to suppose that many of the tumultuous events of the first century were untouched by messianism. The death of Herod the Great led to several uprisings; although things cooled for a while, in the period 4 BCE to 66 CE, there were many socioreligious movements at the time of the procurators that show expectation and hope for God’s miraculous interventions and gradually a spirit of zealotry beginning to emerge. I doubt that we have to wait as long as Simon ben Kosiba in 135 CE to find another messianic leader after the death of Jesus. The following lists indicate messianic expectations that are explicitly titular or implicitly messianic.”-Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, pgs 47-49.

Bird goes onto list the expectations using the title “Messiah.” Notice that Bird knows  in order to understand messianism, we need to read the Bible but also read extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, The Dead Sea Scrolls,  and the Targumim, etc, (see Craig A Evans: “Introduction” to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature).

“Messiah of Aaron and Israel” (CD 12.23–13.1; 14.19; 19.10–11; 20.1; 1QS 9.11)

“Messiah of Israel” (1QSa 2.12, 14, 20)

“Messiah of righteousness” (4Q252 frg. 1 5.3–4)

“Heaven and earth will obey his Messiah” (4Q521 2.1)

“Their king shall be the Lord’s Messiah” (Pss. Sol. 17.32; cf. 18.7)

“May God cleanse Israel for the day of mercy and blessing for the appointed day when his Messiah will reign” (Pss. Sol. 18.5)

“Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah” (1 En. 48.10)

“authority of the Messiah” (1 En. 52.4)

“For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him” (4 Ezra 7.28) “

“This is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the offspring of David” (4 Ezra 12.32) “The Messiah will begin to be revealed” (2 Bar. 29.3) “when the time of the appearance of the Messiah has been fulfilled” (2 Bar. 30.1) “the kingship of the house of David, thy righteous Messiah” (Shemoneh ‘Esreh 14)

Son of Man: (Dan. 7:13–14; 1 En. 46.1–5; 48.2; 62.1–15; 63.11; 69.27–29; 71.14–17; 4 Ezra 13.1–13, 25–26; Justin Martyr, Dial. 31–32)

Man/Ruler: (Philo, Rewards 95; Num. 24:7, 17 LXX) Rod (CD 7.19–20; Justin Martyr, Dial. 100, 126) Prince (Ezek. 34:24; 37:25; Dan. 9:25–26; CD 7.20; 1QSb 5.20; 1QM 3.16; 5.1; 4Q285 frgs. 4–6; Jub. 31.18; Sib. Or. 3.49–50)

Branch of David: (4Q161 frgs. 8–10.15, 22; 4Q252 5.3; 4Q285 frg. 5.3–4; T. Jud 24.4–6) Scepter (1QSb 5.27–28; 4Q161 frgs. 2–4 2.9–13; frgs. 5–6 3.17; frgs. 8–10, 22–26; 4Q252 5.2)

Son of God :(4Q246 1.9; 2.1; Mark 15:39)

Elect/Chosen One (1 En. 39.6; 40.5; 45.3; 48.6; 49.2, 4; 51.3, 5; 52.6, 9; 53.6; 55.4; 61.5, 8, 10; 62.1; Apoc. Abr. 31.1)

King (Mark 15.32 and par.; Sib. Or. 3.286–87, 652) Snow-white cow/horned ram (1 En. 90.9–12, 37–38) Star (T. Levi 18.3; T. Jud. 24.1; Sib. Or. 5.158–60)

Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 22:14; 1 John 2:1; 1 En. 38.2; 53.6)

Historical figures referred to as “Messiah”:

Jesus of Nazareth

Simon ben Kosiba

Implicitly messianic historical figures not referred to as “Messiah”:

Judas the Galilean Simon the servant of Herod

Athronges Menahem Simon bar Giora-

 

 Figures who claimed royal prerogatives between 4 B.C.E and 68-70 C.E but are not called “the” or “a” Messiah:

1. In Galilee 4 B.C.E.: Judas, son of bandit leader Ezekias (War 2.56;Ant.17.271-72)

2. In Perea 4 B.C.E.: Simon the Herodian slave (War 2.57-59;Ant 17.273-77)

3. In Judea 4 B.C.E.: Athronges, the shepherd (War 2.60-65;Ant 17.278-84)

4. Menahem: grandson of Judas the Galilean (War 2.433-34, 444)

5. Simon, son of Gioras (bar Giora) War 2.521, 625-54;4.503-10, 529;7.26-36, 154)

Sources:

1. Berger, D. The Rebbe, The Messiah, And The Scandal Of Orthodox Indifference. Portland, Oregon: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2001, 171-173.

2 Bird, M.F.,Are You The One To Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

3.  Brown, R.E. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1994, 155-161.

4. Evans, C.A. and P. W. Flint. Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1997.

5.  Elwell, W. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996.

6.  Schochet, J.I. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.

7.  Zannoni, A. Jews and Christians Speak of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.1994, 113-114.

Source: Is Jesus the Messiah? An Outline on Jewish Messianism

Ravi Zacharias: Millennials Have Abandoned the Church and Christian Sexual Ethics to Seek Answers and Fulfillment—They Have Found Neither

Ravi Zacharias Millennials

After speaking at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C., apologist Ravi Zacharias sat down with the Christian Post to discuss millennials and the church. Among his observations, gleaned after answering hundreds of questions posed to him by college students across the country, Zacharias believes millennials have abandoned the church and Christian sexual ethics in order to find answers and fulfillment.

The topic of sexuality comes up in practically every speech or talk Zacharias does, regardless of how unrelated the topic of the speech may be. Speaking to Christian Post reporter Brandon Showalter, Zacharias explained millennials have replaced real spirituality with sexual expression as a means to finding fulfillment. “And what they have done is burned themselves out before they are even in their mid-20s and they have come away empty-handed as well.”

In essence, millennials are looking to sex to give them spiritual fulfillment. The problem with this, Zacharias explains, is that “if the body indulges itself you’re going to come away empty.” Only by “touching the soul” will one be fulfilled. The challenge to Christians is to communicate the beauty of sexuality and the fact that God’s laws surrounding it are actually liberating and not repressive.

The approach of helping people see the heart of Christianity seems to be what Zacharias is advocating for. He shared the example of coming to Christ in a hospital room on a “bed of suicide” after someone took the time to come and talk to him about Jesus. Christians should be moved to action by compassion, and not just “identify [non-Christians] as an opposition.”

Millennials “have come to the conclusion that there are no answers anywhere,” Zacharias says. He recounts an encounter he had with a university student who left the faith after 18 years to pursue answers he never felt were given in the church. In a telephone call, Zacharias asked the young man if he had found the answers, meaning, and purpose he was looking for outside the church. The answer was no.

Which leads Zacharias to encourage Christians everywhere to approach their unbelieving neighbors with compassion and not to see them as opposition.

The post Ravi Zacharias: Millennials Have Abandoned the Church and Christian Sexual Ethics to Seek Answers and Fulfillment—They Have Found Neither appeared first on ChurchLeaders.com.

CultureWatch: The Collapsing Christian Worldview

On a regular basis, sadly, I find myself in debates with fellow believers who seem woefully clueless as to the biblical worldview. They seem to just regurgitate pagan thinking, beliefs and practice, yet still somehow think they are being good Christians.

worldview 1Too many Christians simply think and act like those in the surrounding culture, and they seem blissfully unaware that they really should not be doing this. But I am not alone in seeing such worldly Christianity out there – unfortunately researchers keep finding the same thing. Let me discuss one of the latest bits of research on this.

Summit Ministries started in America in 1962 and was led for nearly fifty years by David Noble, a champion in worldview studies. It has been the premier worldview course in the US with tens of thousands of young people profoundly impacted by it over the years.

And George Barna has been engaged in Christian research for almost as long, gauging the state of play of American Christianity. Now Summit and Barna have teamed up to measure just how much of a biblical worldview American Christians actually have. Sadly, the findings are not very encouraging.

A quick overview of the findings has shown that among practicing Christians:

-61% agree with ideas rooted in New Spirituality.
-54% resonate with postmodernist views.
-36% accept ideas associated with Marxism.
-29% believe ideas based on secularism.

Wow, that does not sound very good. But first a word about how the research was gathered. The researchers say this:

Research with practicing Christians (who go to church at least monthly and consider their faith very important in their life) included 1,456 web-based surveys conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 in each of the 50 United States. The survey was conducted in March 2017. The sampling error for this study is plus or minus 2.4%, at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the sample to known population percentages in relation to demographic variables.
1Barna has tracked beliefs that make up a “biblical worldview” since 1995, with the data included in this article (17% of practicing Christians have a biblical worldview) coming from an OmniPoll conducted in an online study of 1,066 U.S. adults in July of 2015. Barna defines “biblical worldview” as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

So let’s look at the findings a bit more closely. Consider the issue of the “New Spirituality”. This would include things like the New Age Movement, alternative religions, such as Eastern religions, as well as various aberrant Christian teachings. Here is what the researchers said about their findings:

Practicing Christians find the claims of New Spirituality among the most enticing, perhaps because it holds a positive view of religion, emphasizes the supernatural and simultaneously feeds into a growing dissatisfaction with institutions. For instance, almost three in 10 (28%) practicing Christians strongly agree that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Further, the belief that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is” has captured the minds of more than one-quarter of practicing Christians (27%).
The New Spirituality worldview has also inched its way into Christian ethics; one-third of practicing Christians (32%) strongly agree that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” This karmic statement, though not explicitly from scripture, appeals to many Christians’ sense of ultimate justice. For example, another Barna study found that 52 percent of practicing Christians strongly agree that the Bible teaches “God helps those who help themselves.”

While practicing Christians have long tended to hold a range of views regarding politics, economics and the like, the research results were also quite worrying in terms of all those flirting with or adhering to the tenets of Marxism. The authors found this:

Marxism as a worldview stands in opposition to the economics of capitalism and falls more in line with socialist or communist political ideologies. Marxism, though, is also founded on an irreligious—or even religiously hostile—foundation. Though not a single practicing Christian says they would actually vote for a communist party candidate (0%) and only 3 percent for the socialist party, some of the key economic and political tenets of a Marxist worldview are supported by practicing Christians, though less so than other worldviews.
For instance, only one in nine (11%) strongly agree that “private property encourages greed and envy.” This is more pronounced among practicing Christian Millennials (20%) and Gen-Xers (22%), who are four to six times as likely to believe this when compared to Boomers (4%) or Elders (5%). For socialists, reigning in greed is the purview of the state, and 14 percent of practicing Christians strongly agree that “the government, rather than individuals, should control as much of the resources as necessary to ensure that everyone gets their fair share.”
In total, Barna found that 36 percent of practicing Christians embraced at least one of the Marxist statements assessed in the research.

The idea that there is no real objective truth is a key tenet of postmodernism, not biblical Christianity. Yet incredibly it seems that many practicing Christians have abandoned biblical absolutes for the relativism of postmodernism:

Almost one-fifth of practicing Christians (19%) strongly agree that “no one can know for certain what meaning and purpose there is to life.” A similar perspective also resonates with many Christians when it comes to views of morality: Almost one-quarter of practicing Christians (23%) strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” Less educated Americans (high school or less) are more likely to affirm this view than their college-educated counterparts (31% compared to 21%).
As a whole, more than half (54%) of practicing Christians embrace at least one of the postmodern statements assessed in the research.

By way of summary the researchers say this about their findings:

“This research really crystalizes what Barna has been tracking in our country as an ongoing shift away from Christianity as the basis for a shared worldview. We have observed and reported on increasing pluralism, relativism and moral decline among Americans and even in the Church. Nevertheless, it is striking how pervasive some of these beliefs are among people who are actively engaged in the Christian faith,” Brooke Hempell, senior vice president of research for Barna, says.
“What stood out most to us was how stark the shift was between the Boomer and Gen-Xer generations,” Hempell remarks. “We expected Millennials to be most influenced by other worldviews, but the most dramatic increase in support for these ideals occurs with the generation before them. It’s no surprise, then, that the impact we see today in our social fabric is so pervasive, given that these ideas have been taking root for two generations.
“The challenge with competing worldviews is that there are fragments of similarities to some Christian teachings, and some may recognize and latch on to these ideas, not realizing they are distortions of biblical truths. The call for the Church, and its teachers and thinkers, is to help Christians dissect popular beliefs before allowing them to settle in their own ideology,” Hempell says. “Informed thinking is essential to developing and maintaining a healthy biblical worldview and faith as well as being able to have productive dialogue with those who espouse other beliefs.”

Orthodoxy – right thinking about God – is essential for the Christian. Yes as this research shows, plenty of Christians are not really thinking at all, let alone thinking rightly. Throughout Scripture we are told about the importance of right belief and right teaching.

And believers are also told not to let the world shape our thinking. As Paul put it in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Yet sadly far too many Christians are doing just what Paul warned against. They are thinking just like pagans, and wondering why they have so little impact and influence on the surrounding culture. But if we think and act just like the world does, how can we expect to change it?

Let me conclude with a few brief quotes from some important Christian thinkers who certainly saw the vital importance of the Christian worldview. First, two quotes from Charles Colson:

“The world is divided not so much by geographic boundaries as by religious and cultural traditions, by people’s most deeply held beliefs – by worldviews.”

“The church’s singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence.”

And as Francis Schaeffer reminds us, we need both orthopraxis as well as orthodoxy:

“As Christians we are not only to know the right worldview, the worldview that tells us the truth of what is, but consciously to act upon that worldview so as to influence society in all its parts and facets across the whole spectrum of life, as much as we can.”

http://www.barna.com/research/competing-worldviews-influence-todays-christians/

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The post The Collapsing Christian Worldview appeared first on CultureWatch.

CultureWatch: The Case for Christ

It was a key principle of Plato’s Socrates that one should follow the evidence wherever it leads. He also said that the ‘unexamined life is not worth living’. Thus those who claim to be seekers after truth need to carefully investigate the evidence, and be willing to change course if that is suggested by the evidence.

People on a religious quest, including agnostics and even atheists, need to do the same. Unless their minds are already made up, they need to be open to new evidence, to new data, which may result in them changing direction in terms of previously held beliefs.

strobelAdmittedly this can be a risky path to be on. For example, more than one atheist has dared to look into the evidence for Christianity – often with a view of proving how false the whole thing is – only to end up being roundly convinced by all the evidence, and becoming Christians – or at least theists – as a result.

Many such cases can be mentioned here. Frank Morrison for example was a lawyer and an engineer who wanted to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So he set about on a serious course of study, only to find that the resurrection was a historically verifiable fact. Thus he wrote his famous book Who Moved the Stone? in 1930.

One of atheism’s heaviest hitters, Antony Flew also examined the evidence, and as a result, in 2004 he renounced his atheism and became a theist. I tell his story here: billmuehlenberg.com/2007/11/21/a-review-of-there-is-a-god-by-antony-flew/

Another noted atheist who set out to prove that Christianity was a bunch of hogwash is Lee Strobel. Most Christians would know of his story. He was an atheist and a rising star as an investigative journalist, writing for the Chicago Tribune. One of his news stories he turned into a book when he was just 28.

Much to his chagrin however, his wife became a Christian in 1979, and two years later after much prayer and love from his wife, and much research on his own, Lee too became a Christian. He wanted his newspaper to print his story of a real life sceptic who became a believer, but his editor refused.

His wife suggested that he write a book instead, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1998 his book The Case for Christ came out and it has sold millions of copies since then. Strobel has gone on to write many more books, including: The Case for Faith (2000); The Case for a Creator (2004); and The Case for the Real Jesus (2007). I have already reviewed some of these volumes:

billmuehlenberg.com/2005/01/17/a-review-of-the-case-for-a-creator-by-lee-strobel/
billmuehlenberg.com/2008/02/21/798/

His first book has now been made into a full length feature film, which I have just returned from seeing. So let me speak a bit more to both the film and the book. After his wife’s conversion, Strobel was greatly troubled, wishing she would let go of this foolishness and go back to the woman he used to know.

But she clung to her newfound faith, despite the insults and nasty reactions of her husband. But he was really bugged by all this, and his journalist side was intrigued. Indeed, some of his Christian colleagues challenged him to do the same thing with Christianity as he would with any other news story: investigate things carefully and look at all the evidence.

So a lengthy process of exploring the evidence in detail and following it wherever it would lead resulted in Strobel not just reading heaps of Christian writers, but actually meeting and interviewing many key Christian thinkers, apologists and writers.

In the film some of the ones presented in the book are featured (played by actors of course). They include: Dr. Gary Habermas, Dr. Alexander Metherell, and Dr. William Lane Craig. As he spoke to these authorities he slowly found his many objections and criticisms melting away in the face of all the solid evidence.

A few personal dramas, including the death of his father, also helped to prepare Strobel for finally seeing his need of admitting that God exists, and that he needs to come to terms with him. So the film shows us all the struggles and turmoil he went through, and all the resistance he put up, until he finally realised that the evidence pointed only in one direction.

Thoughts about the film

I of course strongly urge all of you who have not yet done so to get the book. It is a terrific presentation and examination of the evidence for the Christian faith. But I also urge you to go see the film, which is only out on a brief and limited release.

I should mention that my wife was rightly cautious about going to see the film, knowing that many previous Christian films have been poorly done, overly preachy, not very well written or produced, poorly acted, with bad plots and stilted characters, and so on. But she was pleasantly surprised that this was indeed a very well done film.

And I quite enjoyed it too. It certainly was well done, and I think this sort of film a Christian could easily take a non-believing friend to see, and then discuss it afterwards over a cup of coffee – or a can of Dr Pepper. Of interest, Rotten Tomatoes has given the film a 79% review rating thus far, and an 84% positive audience score.

Since Strobel was a Chicago boy, I found it of interest to see some familiar places (I was from Wisconsin just to the north, and I lived in Chicago for some years. Thus I sometimes went to the same church Strobel did – back then the converted movie theatre that Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church used.

On a side note, one of the most interesting and ironic moments of my viewing happened just before the film actually started. As is usually the case, trailers for other films about to appear or are now showing were featured. One of them was for another popular religious film, The Shack.

I thought the contrast could not be greater. If The Case for Christ is all about evidence, facts, apologetics, good theology and the use of the mind, The Shack is all about emotions, feelings, and bad theology. But I have reviewed the book version of the film here:
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-one/
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-two/

And the author’s newest book I have reviewed here:
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-one/
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-two/

Suffice it to say that if Christians asked me which book to read and which film to see, it would be YES to Strobel and NO to Young. Sadly however I suspect that there may be more Christians going to see The Shack than The Case for Christ. That in good measure helps explain why the Christian church in the West is in such bad shape today.

A few believers who have already seen the film mentioned that it did not end with a call to repentance. My reply to them would be this: every Christian film does not need an altar call at the end to round it off. Even the Apostle Paul did not always do so – see his outreach at Athens for example. And the gospel message was certainly presented throughout the film nonetheless.

So please, if you can, go see the Strobel film. You will be glad you did, and your faith will be greatly strengthened along the way – mentally as well as emotionally.

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The post The Case for Christ appeared first on CultureWatch.

The Atheist Delusion

Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.

Why Prophecy?

Dr. Ed Hindson, a guest on The John Ankerberg Show recently said,

“Bible Prophecy is not written to scare us.
Bible prophecy is written to prepare us.”
 

I have never felt we need to be prepared more that I do now.  People I talk with are afraid and uncertain about the future.  Because I believe studying prophecy is essential to our living with hope and certainty in uncertain times, I wrote a brief article entitled Why is prophecy important? that I would love to share with you.

Many people are scared to study prophecy, while others just simply don’t see the importance of it.  Did you know that of the 31,124 verses in the Bible, 8,352 contain prophetic material? That means that 27% of the entire Bible contains prophetic material.

I would like to encourage you not to be fearful of Bible prophecy but instead, choose to be prepared in these uncertain times.  Please take the time to read this article – it will only take a few minutes.  I believe you will benefit greatly from it. 

Click HERE to READ Why is Prophecy Important?

Albert Mohler Blog: “How Will We Live Now? Francis Schaeffer’s “How Should We Then Live” After 40 Years”

In this essay, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. reflects on Francis Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then Live? forty years after its initial publication. Mohler writes:

“Schaeffer perceived the presuppositions of the looming humanistic and secular worldview as showing up first in art and high culture. He was right. While most evangelicals were watching Gunsmoke and taking their kids to the newly opened Walt Disney World, Schaeffer was listening and watching as a new worldview was taking hold of the larger culture.”

Click Here to Read More

Why you Should Watch The Atheist Delusion by Ray Comfort

the-atheist-delusion-dvd_3d-1Ray Comfort recently released a new movie, “The Atheist Delusion” which is free on YouTube. The movie is an hour long and is a response to Richard Dawkins’ famous book The God Delusion.”

The movie’s description states:

Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.

The Atheist Delusion is a mix of interviews on college campuses, television clips, beautiful sceneries and more.  There is a great structure to the movie and it progresses nicely to a final goal. It is tremendously interesting and it really does a good job of keeping interest throughout. It would be a fantastic movie to watch with the family, the youth group, Bible study or even the entire church. There are several reasons why watching movies like these are great for believers, here are some that come to mind.

It glorifies God

This movie encourages the watcher to be amazed by God and his creative power. It continually glorifies God and His beauty.  It is very informative about how the world is designed, how the body works and how the mind rejects Him despite the fact that He is so obvious. It causes confidence in the believer, and it evokes praise in their heart to the Lord. It also makes the believer thankful to the Lord for salvation and it pushes the believer to long for heaven. All this glorifies the Lord.

It’s encouraging to believers

I believe that ultimately apologetics ends up being more for believers than for unbelievers. What I mean is that God saves people not through evidence but through the preaching of the Word. Archaeological discoveries, scientific discoveries, and movies like these, can’t convince an unbeliever only scripture can (Romans 10:17) but it can have a great effect on the believers confidence in the Bible. In turn that believer is encouraged and more likely to share the Gospel. 

It shows that atheists aren’t as confident as they let on

Talking to an atheist can be intimidating, they seem so certain about their position, they throw science at you as if it proves evolution and Christians run away scared. This movie and others like this really have a way of giving confidence to believers. Movies like these show that atheists, and really all unbelievers, have so much doubt and are on time to time they rethink their “certainties”. There is no such thing as an atheist, and the Bible is completely true when it says that the fool says in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 14:1) and  when it says that all people know God exists but suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).

It teaches you to ask good questions

Ray comfort is a master of asking questions. We all know how to lead someone to Christ. As many preachers have said, if you know enough to get to heaven you know enough to help someone else get there. What we are not very good at is asking good questions. Ray Comfort really does a great job of making people think and he does it by asking great questions.

It encourages evangelism

I can’t write a blog post without mentioning evangelism. This whole movie is about sharing the gospel, and to do so confidently. The movie has the effect of not only making the believer more confident in the truth found in Scripture, but it makes talking to atheists less intimidating. Everyone thinks about eternity. Everyone knows death is around the corner, and we all know that we have serious issues when it comes to our sin. Movies like these tend to remind the believer that people don’t have life figured out, and when you can get them away from others who encourage them in their unbelief, you find that you can have very profitable conversations with even the staunchest of atheists.

I highly encourage you to watch this movie and to share it with your families, and churches. I am very thankful for Ray Comfort and how the Lord has used him to encourage thousands of Christians to be confident in the Bible and to be motivated to share the Gospel.

Source: Why you Should Watch The Atheist Delusion by Ray Comfort

Ravi Zacharias: Does God Condemn People From Other Religions?

Ravi Zacharias is a well-known apologist who is not afraid of tough questions. Originally from India, Zacharias is used to thinking outside of our American-church box. Which is perhaps why he is able to answer the following question as well as he does:

Isn’t it vastly unfair to claim that all the people who don’t believe in Jesus are condemned to hell?

Zacharias starts by addressing the myth that since Jesus came only 2,000 years ago, everything that came before him (including our beliefs) would take precedence over him and the religion his life inspired. But 3,000 years before Jesus, we see Abraham, who grew up in a polytheistic society, yet found the one true God.

In Genesis 18:25, we are told “the Judge of all the earth will do that which is right.” This verse is in context to the judgment that was coming upon Sodom and Gemorrah as a result of their disobedience. Zacharias claims the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham show us that God “speaks through our consciences. He speaks through creation. He speaks ultimately through his word and then in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.”

Additionally, Zacharias claims “God doesn’t really send anybody to hell. We make our choice.” Ultimately, the decision to submit to our heavenly Father or not is our choice. Because, as Zacharias explains, “he will not violate our wills.” God is very concerned with our freedom. “That sacred gift of my freedom is given to me by God,” Zacharias says.

CS Lewis has a pertinent quote that Zacharias draws on: “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who bend their knee to God and say to Him, ‘Your will be done;’ or those who refuse to bend their knee to God and God sys to them, ‘Your will be done.’” Zacharias uses this quote to make the point that God will let us make our own choices—even if those choices land us in hell.

Zacharias ends his discussion by saying God’s “will is the most beautiful thing you can pursue.”

For other Ravi Zacharias Question and Answer videos, check out the following:

Does God Favor a Particular Gender?

Does Suicide Send You to Hell?

Is It OK to Just Follow Christ’s Commands?

The post Ravi Zacharias: Does God Condemn People From Other Religions? appeared first on ChurchLeaders.com.

What makes a religion false?

Christians believe that Christianity is the only true religion; thus all other religions are false. What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith found in the pages of Scripture?  In other words, what must an individual believe in to be saved?  There are 5 essentials.  Can you rattle them off? In this piece over […]

The post What makes a religion false? appeared first on Berean Research.

How Can We Convince a Nonbeliever That the Bible Is the Word of God?

Before I try to answer that question directly, let me make a distinction that is important at the outset. There’s a difference between objective proof and the persuasion or conviction that follows. John Calvin argued that the Bible carries both persuasion and conviction in terms of its internal testimony—the marks of truth that could be found just by an examination of the book itself—as well as external evidences that would corroborate that substantial evidence to give solid proof for its being the Word of God.

Yet the last thing people would want is a book telling them they are in desperate need of repentance and of a changed life and of bowing in humility before Christ. We don’t want that book to be the truth. Calvin claimed that there is a tremendous bias and prejudice built into the human heart that only the influence of God the Holy Spirit can overcome. Calvin distinguished between what he called the undicia—those objective evidences for the trustworthiness of Scripture—and what he called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary to cause us to surrender to the evidence and acknowledge that it is the Word of God.

But I think this is a critical issue upon which so much of the Christian faith depends. The Bible makes the claim that it is the unvarnished Word of God, that it is the truth of God, that it comes from him. God is its ultimate author and source, though indeed he used human authors to communicate that message. In speaking with people about this, we have to go through the laborious process of showing first of all that the Bible as a collection of historical documents is basically reliable. The same tests that we would apply to Herodotus or Suetonius or any other ancient historian would have to be applied to the biblical records. The Christian should not be afraid to apply those kinds of historical standards of credibility to the Scriptures, because they have withstood a tremendous amount of criticism from that standpoint, and their credibility remains intact. On the basis of that, we come to an idea. If the book is basically reliable, it doesn’t have to be inerrent or infallible; it gives us a basically reliable portrait of Jesus of Nazareth and what he taught.

We move from there in linear fashion. If we can on the basis of general reliability come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ did the things that history claims he did, it would indicate that Jesus is more than an ordinary human being and that his testimony would be compelling. I would move first to a study of the person of Jesus and then ask the question, what did Jesus teach about Scripture? For me, in the final analysis, our doctrine of Scripture is drawn from the teaching of Jesus and from our understanding of who he is.

”How does one convince a nonbeliever that the Bible is the Word of God?“ and other questions can be found in our Questions Answered section. To learn more about this topic download R.C. Sproul’s free Crucial Questions booklet Can I Trust the Bible?.

Why Would A Good God Allow Evil? – Part 2 (Cold Case Christianity Broadcast #73)

In this episode of the Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast, J. Warner Wallace completes his talk on the problem of evil. Are there good reasons why an all-powerful, all-loving God would allow his creation to suffer, or does evil demonstrate that God doesn’t exist? This presentation was excerpted from a talk given at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills.

Source: Why Would A Good God Allow Evil? – Part 2 (Cold Case Christianity Broadcast #73)