Apologetics – More Misconceptions – John 5:40

 
Last week we began a new study, dealing with Apologetics. Who can give me the definition of Apologetics? (“The branch of theology which is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.”) It is the science of defending, in the sense of explaining, what we believe to be true. What is one of the places in the Bible where Paul uses the word “apologia”? Acts 22:1 – “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my DEFENSE which I make now unto you.” Did Paul make any apologies in the verses which follow? What did he do? (He explained why and how he became a Christian.)

Toward the close of that lesson, we began to look at some of the misconceptions that lost people have about Christianity. One is that Christians possess nothing more than a BLIND FAITH. What do people mean when they say something like that? (Our faith lacks intelligence or fact.) But is it intellectual suicide to believe the Bible or to be a disciple of Christ? Another misconception is that faith is nothing more than SINCERITY. But there is something more important than the act of believing; what is it? (The object of our faith.) How does II Thessalonians 2:11-12 characterize the last-days-people who will follow the antichrist? “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Will the degree of those people’s sincerity protect them from being damned? A third misconception is that the Bible contains MYTHS. What is a myth? (A fictitious story which has become part of a belief-system.) Are there any myths in the Bible?

Let’s continue with this idea that there are MYTHS in the Bible.
For the sake of brevity, we’re going to have to confine most of our thoughts in this series of lessons to the New Testament, but since most of what differentiates us as Christians comes from the New Testament, that shouldn’t be a problem.

How many of the important events of the New Testament cannot be corroborated by eye witnesses? What important events took place in secret or involving only one person? (Virgin birth? Jesus’ resurrection? ……..) Nearly everything important to our faith has been authenticated by eyewitnesses.

Luke 1:1-3 – “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”

John 20:30-31 – “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Acts 1:1-3 – “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:”

Acts 1:9 – “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

Acts 10:39-42 – “We are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, & shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, & to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.”

II Peter 1:16 – ” For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

I John 1:1-3 – “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

Not only is the Bible filled with statements like: “We saw Jesus do this,” and “we witnessed such-and-such,” there are many places where the Biblical apologists said things like, “and you unbelievers saw it as well.”

Acts 2:22 – “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.”

Acts 26:24-28 – “And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.”

There is nothing that makes a lawyer in a criminal trial happier than when he can get the opponent’s witness to turn and to give evidence for his side of the case.

There is a very real difference between myth and Biblical history. In reading the adventures of Odysseus, surrounded by unbelievable creatures and unworldly feats, the reader is transported into a fictional world. In reading the adventures of Paul and the Lord Jesus, some of their deeds are miraculous, but they are still of our own world. In reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, we are taken into a mythological world, and it is obvious to the reader. C.S. Lewis was no fundamentalist, but he knew the Bible and he wrote fantasies similar to Tolkien. His best know fantasy is The Chronicles of Narnia. He once said: “If he [the biblical critic] tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel. I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this [Gospel of John].

The Bible may be mysterious and at times difficult to believe, but it is entirely different from myth. It involves real people, in real, plausible situations. And the purpose of the Bible is not to entertain, but to reveal and inform.

Misconception #4: Jesus and the other Bible people are historically unknowable and unprovable.
This is both true and false. How is it true that we cannot prove the existence and activities of Jesus of Nazareth? (We cannot turn back the clock and personally witness the life of Christ. And we can’t interrogate anyone who has personally witnessed the life of Christ.) But how is this statement false? There were lots of credible witnesses to nearly every aspect of the life of Christ, and their testimony has been recorded.

Is the fact that the Bible is old proof that it isn’t telling us the truth? Is the fact that the Bible tells us things (about miracles, for example) that require faith mean that it isn’t telling us the truth? The people of the modern world have been programed to believe that God doesn’t exist and that miracles are impossible, and this means that they are going to interpret everything they hear within those parameters. Christians on the other hand are lead by the Holy Spirit to believe every word of the Bible, and if they doubt what it says it is only because they are being influenced by unbelievers.

I think that someday we are going to have the option to have lenses permanently implanted into our eyes, which will darken in bright sunlight and lighten again in less bright light. Intellectually, we already have those lenses: Some people look at the world and history without the ability to see God. Some people cannot find room in their minds for the miraculous. And so when these people look at the histories of Bible they are forced by their corrupted mind-set to deny the testimony.

Although, no modern historian has the ability to return to the days of Christ and to video His every move, although we no longer have living eyewitnesses of the events of the New Testament, we do have the written testimonies of people who were eyewitnesses at the time. And when those people describe miraculous events, we are obligated to believe their testimony, until someone proves that they were deceived or that they were liars.

History is a knowledge of the past based on testimony. No one that I know has ever met George Washington, former President of the United States, But there were multitudes of people who did see him, hear him and knew him, who wrote of him. And even though those eyewitnesses are also gone, we accept their testimonies. The same is true of the disciples of Christ.

Misconception #5: Christian love requires that we accept the religious opinions of others.
Why is this a misconception? (Christian loves requires us to accept the truth, but not error.) This misconception reflects the new definition of “tolerance.” What is the old definition of tolerance? (To recognize and respect the opinions of others.) What is the new definition? (Everyone’s beliefs, lifestyle and perception of truth are equal.)

Let’s say that someone thinks that North Idaho is the best place in the world in which to live. And let’s say that because of his love for this place, he says that Coeur d’Alene is the capital of the United States. Is this man’s opinion about the capital of the U.S. true? Do you mean that his opinion doesn’t make it so? Is it intolerant to say that you disagree with him and to say that Spokane is really the capital of the United States?

The same is true about Christianity. If the claims of Bible Christianity are true then the claims of Islam and Hinduism are false. And it is not intolerance to point out the errors of false religion, or the areas of disagreement. Two of the misconceptions about intolerance are: We are supposed to constantly doubt what we have been taught, and that we should constantly strive to accept what is being newly taught to us. If we did that in every area of our lives, the world would be in constant chaos. So why should we be asked to do it in the area of religion?

Isn’t it the person who disbelieves in the face of the strong evidence for Christianity, the one who is the intolerant and closed-minded person?

Misconception #6: Christianity is a belief-system which conflicts with the intellect.
From your experience, which of the following is the least most common reason that people reject Christ and Christianity: ignorance, intellectual problems, pride, or moral issues?

IGNORANCE can be because of the absence of information, or it can be self-imposed. Romans 1:18-23 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”

Matthew 22:23-33 – “The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

PRIDE keeps people from Christ. John 5:39-44 – “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”

MORAL PROBLEMS keep many from Christ. John 3:16-21 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

Rarely do people turn from Christ for truly intellectual reasons. What might be an apparent intellectual reason? (Misunderstanding history, miracles, Biblical discrepancies.) When someone says that there are contradictions in the Bible, ask him to describe some of them. The primary reason that people refuse to believe is expressed by Christ in John 5:40 – “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” It’s a matter of the WILL, not the MIND. Later Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

What do you think of this statement: “If any person comes to the claims of Jesus Christ wanting to know if they are true, and willing to follow His teachings if they are true, he or she will know. But one cannot come unwilling to accept, and expect to find out” (Josh McDowell).

The philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote: “The evidence of God’s existence and his gift is more than compelling, but those who insist that they have no need of Him or it, will always find ways to discount the offer.”