Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Wednesday, February 28, 2007

    Jesus' Lost Tomb Controversy - More Food for Thought

    I've heard the expression used before "SAME heresy, but just dressed up in different clothes." This one is no different and it should not surprise us any longer to see supposed discoveries and documentaries such as this just before Easter, for it's now beginning to be more the trend than the exception. (Does the Da Vinci Code bring back any memories?)

    Having not seen the documentary, but having witnessed those on the both the side of Christianity (conservative and liberal) as well as professed unbelievers express their excitement or lack thereof, as well as their opinions, let me briefly address a few issues.

    First, let me make it clear that while the scholar from UNC says that if this finding is true, it really doesn't affect Christianity all that much, that he cannot be further from the truth. This issue strikes at the heart of religion itself and the heart of the gospel. While he suggests that "when Paul says he saw Jesus, this could have just been spiritually, and this is a place where good debate lies", seeming to infer that it is enough for Jesus to have been divine in spirit only (or as he says in the sense that "his spirit lives on"), his suggestion is no different from the issues dealt with by the early church and classified as heresies. As Berkhof, the distinguished Christian theologian puts it "Belief in the resurrection certainly has doctrinal bearings. We cannot deny the physical resurrection of Christ without impugning the veracity of the writers of Scripture, since they certainly represent it as a fact." J. I. Packer, in referring to the bodily resurrection writes "Christianity rests on the certainty of Jesus' resurrection as a space-time occurence in history. All four Gospels highlight it focusing on the empty tomb and resurrection." Christ's bodily resurrection, not only reveals his passing from under the law and his victory over death, but also his full vindication in righteousness by the Spirit. Was it not important that Jesus ate with his disciples following his resurrection? Did Jesus in addressing the doubts of Thomas not show him his flesh? Does Paul not in Philippians speak of Jesus' plan to transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body? No, the assertion that the bodily resurrection of Christ is unimportant is not only uninformed but unorthodox.

    Second, if it is being asserted that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, this has never been proven. In fact, the most convincing evidence of those who espouse this is lifted from a gnostic gospel which simply states that Jesus kissed her, which can be no different than a holy kiss referred to in Scripture, common in that day. The point being this, that to accept this as fact in support of the bodies in the tomb being that of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, is to begin not only with some of the weakest of evidence but with the weakest of evidence from gnostic gospels already proven to be forgeries.

    Third, in regard to the inscription "Jesus, son of Joseph", while it might be possible that those who buried Jesus would use such an inscription (especially given the political and religious climate at the time, and perhaps the Jewish practice), it would be just if not more likely that his Christian followers, especially given the opportunity through Pilate's own command concerning the inscription to be used with Christ, would have taken the opportunity to draw attention to the fact that Jesus was not to be considered in the run of the mill way that others were simply according to human paternal lineage. While I recognize generational and cultural differences must be considered, at the same time most believers today not only see but take opportunity to distinguish between the death of Jesus and the death of others. Even so, given the significant difference between the statistical predictions and the weight held out by the history of Christian witness (witnesses to the resurrection, those willing to lay down their lives for this truth, along with the testimony of the Scripture and the history of the church, not to mention the personal and widespread testimony of people from all other the world who testify to experiencing Christ), such statistics, especially with no more certainty than they provide, should be and will prove no significant threat to the ongoing work and ministry of the gospel.

    Fourth, if Jesus actually had a son, then isn't it somewhat strange that one finds nothing of any significance in the writings of all antiquity concerning this? Nothing concerning his life. Nothing concerning his death. Nothing concerning his relation to Jesus or his beliefs or testimony concerning Jesus. Nothing of his participation or lack of participation in the church. Nothing. Yet today, because a tomb was found a few decades ago with a family including the name Jesus, are we to assume that to be clear and persuasive testimony that it is so? While one can point to statistics on one side, what do the statistics which include all the other evidence and writings suggest? It's been said before that "one can make statistics say about anything a person wants." In this case, the statistics seem to be saying what a certain set of producers want.

    Finally, while the producers are right on one level in saying "there is nothing wrong with simply reporting the discovery and findings" (though again this is an old finding simply dressed up with modern clothes), are we to suppose that given the topic, given the timing, given the slant that has already been seen in the much of the mainstream media, that this motive is the driving force behind the documentary? Are we as the public to accept this as their intent, or would it not be more honest reporting to state their position and convictions in presenting the evidence and let the people decide and respond, but this would not draw near the financial profit expected, or would it?

    Bottom line, this too will come and go, and soon be forgotten as are all other attempts to dethrone Christ and cast doubt among the uninformed and undiscerning. May this issue become a building block for God's people as we look forward and not only stand ourselves but prepare others for dealing with the next attempt, perhaps as early as Easter 2008, if not before!

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    Jesus DNA - Critical assessment

    I did a quick rundown on the DNA testing. In my opinion, it is pretty much worthless.

    One thing that is mentioned in passing in the Jesus Tomb documentary is the DNA testing. It immediately struck me as odd that they will release fairly detailed supporting documents for all other "evidence", but that the DNA analysis is not really shown in detail anywhere.

    There is a lot of precedence for the testing of ancient DNA, most notably on mummies. DNA testing on mummies has shown this type of testing to be quite hard. DNA is one of the first things that decompose. Decomposition will break up the DNA strands, which will lead to false sequencing. The factors that lead to decomposition include temperature, PH and the availibility of oxygen and water.

    Read more here: Critical assessment

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    Jesus' Lost Tomb Controversy - certainly a cause for Christian Skepticism

    See a great list of resources at the CounterCult blog.

    Here is a Fox News video - not the greatest response from the Christian Skeptic side, but that is no surprise - when will they ask somebody like James White to be the counterpoint to this effluvia?

    From Dr.White:

    “We are also seeing the danger of investing Hollywood celebrities with nigh unto divine powers. James Cameron brought us Terminator and Titanic, but now he seems to have become an archaeologist and theologian as well. He is quoted as saying, “It doesn’t get bigger than this. We’ve done our homework; we’ve made the case; and now it’s time for the debate to begin.” Well, if a true scholarly debate is what they wanted, they would have presented this material first in a completely different context. They don’t want debate anymore than Dan Brown did. They want money, they want power, and evidently, they know the best way to get it these days is to join the “attack Christianity” bandwagon. They have presented their conclusions before the debate itself, and that is so that they can poison the well. When the debate finally begins, the money will already be in their pockets, the damage done, and for the foreseeable future we will be dealing with people repeating their claims as established facts.”

    Here is practically the entire documentary on YouTube - Dr. White - I know you do audio responses, but maybe now is the time to branch out into video?


    (Just thinking...a cool format would be to do a "response position" to the off center, right side of the screen shot, by doing a left profile, off center interview type shot. Hey, August - do you have a digital video camera :D )

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    Saturday, February 24, 2007

    What science teaches about the truth

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    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    Answering the "Rational Responders"

    Triablogue answers RR

    Paul Manata has actually taken the time to answer all 89 questions posed by the "Rational Responders". Typically, Manata is precise and to the point in his answers, which I guess will get no rational reaction from the amateur atheologians, except for the "waaa-waaa" defense.

    It will be good fun to get our own set of questions together for atheists to answer in the same fashion though.

    I'll start with a few, then the other contributors can weigh in with their questions.
    1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
    2. How do you know that you exist (without being circular)?
    3. Where does human self-consciousness come from?
    4. How do you know that your senses are reliable (without being circular)?
    5. What is truth?
    6. What is the cause of everything?

    Feel free to add to the list, I will do so too as we go along.

    To our unbelieving visitors, feel free to have a crack at answering the questions. Please quote sources as neccessary and take care to avoid logical fallacies.

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    Friday, February 09, 2007

    Response to "The Blasphemy Challenge"

    Mark 2:29 states "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."

    It should not be surprising when unbelievers are seen to key in on this verse in attempting to taunt believers and promote their unbelief.

    The Blasphemy Challenge is no exception. In it, as captured by Nightline, members of the Rational Response Squad is trying to encourage and provide a method for atheists to come out of the closet and to resist and erase a social vilification (and subjective fear), challenged people to make videos of themselves denying, denouncing or blaspheming the Holy Spirit and then to post them on YouTube. Hundreds have participated, but the question remains: What in effect have they accomplished and what in effect are they accomplishing?

    I'd like to address those issues.

    First, it is possible that some in participating show a misinterpretation of the text itself. While some in posting a video may by doing so reveal their already settled position, many in posting may think that by participating in a one time temporal act they are flippantly or defiantly conforming to the qualifications required by the text and thereby rejecting the truth taught by the text. However, when one comes to understand the text refers to a settled or persistent condition of the soul in contrast to an isolated incident involving the soul, then the effect is nullified.

    Second, for those who possess such a settled position of the soul, participation in such a video is meaningless in the sense that to do so as to suggest that one can do so and get away with it without consequence is to fail to understand biblical revelation and divine judgment. On the one hand, the Bible not only claims that God is patient and therefore had delayed final accounting and judgment to a later time, but also that God in judging man sometimes gives man over now to the darkness and depravity of his heart, so that even participation in such a video is not neutral, but reveals the judgment of God.

    Third, those who deny or denounce the Holy Spirit, while they may do so in name, often do not do so consistently in life. On the one hand, they are like those who may speak of getting over on the IRS in private, but when confronted by the IRS would not be so bold. On another hand, while they may denounce the Holy Spirit on a video, they are not willing to go so far as to live a life fully consistent with their pronounced beliefs by intentionally violating all his revealed word and commandments at every opportunity. For example, why don't unbelievers who want to denounce the Holy Spirit always dishonor authority, commit adultery, kill, bear false witness, etc.? While some may be quick to say that human experience, human values, human government, etc., dictate otherwise, they fall short of proving that eternal laws govern the universe and that even their conscience bears witness to the fact the laws of the Spirit are right and authoritative.

    Fourth, those who seek to deny the Holy Spirit in effect ARE denying the proof necessary for salvation. As one put it they are "cutting off their only and last hope". However, to presuppose or to videotape the nonexistence of God does not do away with the existence of God. Rather, it reveals the truth of God.

    Finally, those who look to Mark 3:29 in attempting to deny the Holy Spirit reveal the irony of God. for we all know that a person can be truly, fully, and deeply known if and to the extent that they reveal themselves. This is true not only of man (who is personal) but OF GOD (who is also personal). This should not be strange to us. For who knows a person better than the person themselves? Do others not know us to the degree that we reveal ourselves? For others to know us, do we not first have to make the real "us" known? Do we not also choose to reveal ourselves to some and not to others, and even to those whom we reveal ourselves do we not do so to varying degrees according to our pleasure and purposes? If this is true of us, then should we then think it irrational for it to be the same with God (in whose image we have been made)?

    No, the Bible tells us that is exactly the case. "Who knows the mind of man better than his spirit? Who then knows the mind of God better than His Spirit?" This is why not only the gift of God's Spirit but the gift of his revelation is not only critical, but the only means of knowing him, and knowing him not only as he really is but knowing him deeply! The irony is that those who seek to deny, denounce or blaspheme the Holy Spirit actually deny their only hope of knowing the very God whom they deny. It's true that "those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." (Jonah 2:8)

    Unbelievers have two choices. They can deny the Spirit and His revelation whereby they are left to ignorance and/or speculation (along with sin and condemnation), or they can look to and accept both the gift of God and His revelation whereby they may have life and life eternal.

    Grace and Peace,


    youtube site challengingtheblasphemy

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