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UPDATE 1/13 – U.S. to Give Muslim Brotherhood Lead Egypt 16 F-16s & 200 Tanks

http://freebeacon.com/egypt-to-receive-f-16s/

This is a re-post of news as obtained by the free beacon news agency in Washington D.C

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“The State Department has refused to cancel or delay the delivery of several American-made F-16 fighter jets to Egypt, claiming that the arms deal serves America’s “regional security interests,” according to an official State Department document obtained by the Free Beacon.

The news that the Obama administration would uphold an aid package to Egypt that included the military hardware prompted concern on Capitol Hill from lawmakers who said the deal was not prudent given the political situation in Egypt, where Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi has clashed with democratic protestors.

“Sixteen F-16s and 200 Abrams tanks are to be given to the Egyptian government before the end of the year under a foreign aid deal signed in 2010 with then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak,” Fox News reported Tuesday.

The State Department maintained in a January 8 letter to Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.) that the arming of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood serves the U.S.’s “regional security interests.”

“Delaying or cancelling deliveries of the F-16 aircraft would undermine our efforts to address our regional security interests through a more capable Egyptian military and send a damaging and lasting signal to Egypt’s civilian and military leadership as we work toward a democratic transition in the key Middle Eastern State,” the State Department said.

“Egypt is a strategic partner with whom we have a long history of close political-military relations that have benefited U.S. interest,” said the letter, which was authored by assistant secretary for legislative affairs David Adams. “For the past 30 years the F-16 aircraft has been a key component of the relationship between the United States military and the Egyptian Armed Forces.”

“Maintaining this relationship and assisting with the professionalization and the building of the Egyptian Armed Forces’ capabilities to secure its borders is one of our key interests in the region,” Adams wrote.

“Egypt continues to play an important role in the regional peace and stability,” according to the letter. “In all of our engagements with President Morsi and his staff, they have reaffirmed Egypt’s commitment to its international agreements, including its peace treaty with Israel.”

“Egypt was instrumental in negotiating the Gaza ceasefire, and continues to work with the parties involved to implement it and secure a more lasting peace,” the letter states.

Morsi was recently criticized for calling Jews the “descendants of apes and pigs.”

Observers on Capitol Hill said that it is dangerous to arm an unstable Islamist regime.

One senior GOP aide familiar with the deal said he is ”incredulous that a country that doesn’t have peace and stability within itself is playing ‘an important role in regional peace and stability’ as this letter claims.”

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Update: Egypt’s New “Pharaoh”

So far we have seen an uprising which caused a revolt.  This revolt led to the overthrow of previous egyptian ruler Hosini Mubarak.  Because of this overthrow a power vacuum was created which led to the now elected president Mohammed Morsi.

What is the latest as of 11/27/2012?

Egypt’s New “Pharaoh”

Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian president, was accused of appointing himself as “Egypt’s new pharaoh” after he gave himself sweeping powers to oversee the country’s political transition in the wake of his success in negotiating a ceasefire in Gaza.

Mr Morsi declared unilaterally that  until a new constitution is decreed all presidential decisions would be immune from legal challenge.

“The president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution,” said his statement, read out on television by his personal spokesman, Yasser Ali.

“The constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal.”

The announcement caused outrage. Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who returned to Egyptito become a leader of the liberal opposition, accused Mr Morsi of declaring himself a “new pharaoh”.

“Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh,” Mr ElBaradei said on Twitter. “A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences.”

Egyptians Stage Massive Anti-Morsi Rally

Tens of thousands of people are staging a protest in the Egyptian capital against President Mohamed Morsi, who last week granted himself sweeping new powers.
“The people want the regime to fall,” the crowds chanted.

Protesters and riot police clashed in Cairo on Tuesday near Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

 Demonstrators are accusing President Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood of betraying last year’s revolution [AFP]

Lawyers left their syndicate chanting, “The people want the downfall of the regime,” – the signature chant of the protests that toppled Mubarak in February, 2011.

 

What will happen next?

 

 

Sources

1)http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/9697347/Mohammed-Morsi-grants-himself-sweeping-new-powers-in-wake-of-Gaza.html

2) http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/11/20121127142656380571.html

Update: The New Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood 6/2012

In October 2011 I wrote about the religious violence in Egypt and the power vacuum that was created after the ousting of predsident  Mubarak.  I wrote that, “In the near future we may very well have a second Islamic State like Iran but in Egypt.”

It seems my predictions have come true. Here is what the news out of Cairo read today,

“The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi has officially won Egypt’s presidential election and will be the country’s next president, the electoral commission has announced.”

What does this mean for the Middle East and the relationship the U.S. and Israel will have with Egypt?  Only time will tell but my guess is nothing good – especially for Israel.

 

Read more:  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/06/201262412445190400.html

The New Testament Reliability Compared to Other Famous Ancient Works

 Skeptical View of the New Testament Documents

I was on an online forum recently and a comment posted by a user caught my attention. This person wrote “You shouldn’t trust what the New Testament says because it is well known that we don’t have the originals! Therefore, how can we trust that it originally said what it says today?”

In other words what she is saying is:

  1. One can only trust documents for which we have the originals

  2. We do not have the original New Testament manuscripts

  3. Therefore, we cannot trust the New Testament

Skeptical View of All Written History

Although it is no secret that we do not have the original manuscripts of the New Testament, it is naïve to assume that because we do not have the original documents we cannot trust what we read today. Why? Because by comparison we also do not have the original manuscripts of any other ancient work of literature. Let me say that again – we do not have the originals of any manuscript of any ancient work of literature. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Why is this an important fact to consider? Because if we ascribe the same scrutiny associated with the New Testament to that of other ancient works, we would be forced to conclude:

  1. One can only trust documents for which we have the originals

  2. We do not have originals of any ancient documents

  3. Therefore, we cannot trust any ancient documents

Would we dare to say that we cannot trust at all the words written about Caesar? Plato? Aristotle? What about Homer’s Iliad? Should we abandon everything written down in our history textbooks because we do not have the originals? I sure hope not. Otherwise many people have wasted a lot of time and money reading, studying, and teaching historical events over the years.

 Manuscript Evidence: New Testament vs. Famous Ancient Works

To start we must affirm that the question of authenticity for ancient texts is not really a religious concern at all; it’s an academic one that can be answered in an academic way totally unrelated to spiritual convictions by a simple appeal to the facts.  For instance the science of textual criticism is used to test all documents of antiquity–not just religious texts–including historical and literary writings.  It’s not a theological enterprise based on hopes and guesses; it’s a linguistic exercise that follows a set of established rules.

So what about the New Testament? How does it stack up against other ancient works of antiquity?  It is known among contemporary scholarship that the manuscript evidence that gives us assurance that we have reliable copies of the Bible far outweighs the evidence for all other ancient writings combined! 

Norman Geisler, Philosopher and Theologian wrote on this subject, “No other book is even a close second to the Bible on either the number or early dating of the copies. The average secular work from antiquity survives on only a handful of manuscripts; the New Testament boasts thousands.”(1)

Bruce Metzger, professor of New Testament studies at Princeton University, wrote that compared to the manuscript evidence of all other ancient writings “the textual critic of the New Testament is embarrassed by the wealth of his material.”(2) In other words, the evidence is there and comparisons can be made to retrieve a very close proximity to the original text.

Dr. Benjamin Warfield, Former professor of theology at Princeton Seminary concluded from his study on the topic, “If we compare the present state of the text of the New Testament with that of no matter what other ancient work, we must…declare it marvelously exact.”

A Chart of Comparison

Below is a chart comparing the New Testament to 17 other famous works of antiquity. I compared qualities such as when is it believed that the originals were written compared to the earliest copy that we have to date. I compared the time span between the originals and the copies we have today. I also compared how many copies we have with each other which can be used to maintain proper translations. 

THE HISTORICITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AGAINST OTHER TEXTS OF ANTIQUITY

ANCIENT DOCUMENT

ORIGINAL

EARLIEST COPY

TIME SPAN

# OF COPIES

New Testament 40-100 A.D. 125 A.D. 25 5,686*
Homer 900 B.C. 400 B.C. 500 643
Pliny 61-113 A.D. 850 A.D. 750 7
Suetonius 75-160 A.D. 950 A.D. 800 8
Tacitus 100 A.D. 1000 A.D. 900 1
Caesar 100-44 B.C. 900 A.D. 1000 10
Tacitus 100 A.D. 1100 A.D. 1000 5
Lucretius 53 B.C. 1153 A.D. 1100 2
Aristophanes 450-385 B.C. 900 A.D. 1200 10
Plato 427-347 B.C. 1100 A.D. 1200 7
Demosthenes 383-322 B.C. 900 A.D. 1300 200
Thucydides 460-400 B.C. 900 A.D. 1300 8
Herodotus 480-425 B.C. 1100 A.D. 1300 8
Aristotle 384-322 B.C. 1000 A.D 1400 49
Sophocles 496-406 B.C. 1100 A.D. 1400 193
Euripides 480-406 B.C. 1100 A.D. 1500 9
Catullus 54 B.C. 1550 A.D. 1600 3
Livy 59 B.C. – 17 A.D. 400 A.D. 400 20

(*Total New Testament manuscripts = 5,686 Greek MSS, 10,000 Latin Vulgates, 9,300 others = 24,986 copies) 

What about consistency or variants between the texts?

In the many thousands of manuscript copies we possess of the New Testament, scholars have discovered that there are some 150,000 “variants.” This may seem like a staggering figure to the uninformed mind. But to those who study the issue, the numbers are not so staggering as it may initially appear.  Indeed, a look at the hard evidence shows that the New Testament manuscripts are amazingly accurate and trustworthy. 

To begin, we must emphasize that out of these 150,000 variants, 99% hold virtually no significance whatsoever.  Many of these variants simply involve a missing letter in a word; some involve reversing the order of two words (such as “Christ Jesus” instead of “Jesus Christ”); some may involve the absence of one or more insignificant words.  Really, when all the facts are put on the table, only about 50 of the variants have any real significance – and even then, no doctrine of the Christian faith or any moral commandment is effected by them.

In conclusion, if Biblical critics acknowledge the historicity and writings of other individuals such as listed above then they must also retain the historicity and writings of the New Testament authors; after all, the evidence for the New Testament’s reliability is far greater than the others. Furthermore, because of the abundance of early and independent manuscripts, critics are able to determine that the accuracy between the texts is at a very high degree.  Is this sufficient enough for us to place our faith in the Bible as the inspired word of God?  For some people the answer is no; no amount of “evidence” will convince them to believe.  For others yes; it is easy to believe in the words written in the Bible.  Why is that?  How come some believe and some do not?  Is it because some people are smarter than others?  No not at all.  It is because the Christian faith is not based on manuscript evidence or textual accuracy or any hard “evidence” for that matter.  Rather it is by the grace of God that one comes to believe and by his grace alone.  The Apostle Paul explains this when he wrote,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8

Peace and God Bless

Citations

{1} Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, ‘New Testament Manuscripts’ p531-537

{2} Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 3

Easter pt 2 – Eternal Life Through God’s Only Son

Today in the world people are dying from war and acts of war. Some are starved, others are persecuted. Its not a matter of if this type of stuff happens, but why? Why does man continue to make “other man” suffer? Do you think that if man alone were able to end all of the sin and blood shed in the world we would have done it by now? It seems to me that war is the preferred method we use to bring so called peace. War is like a fist fight; when someone strikes you, you strike them back only with more force. Eventually you get attacked again and then you strike back! All of this unfolds until one side gives up and/or is completely destroyed. Sure a type of “peace” may come from it but the process of war itself is far from peaceful.

What are your thoughts on all of the war in the world? Is the stock piling of weapons and acts of war useful in bringing peace? It seems to me that the nature of politics makes that a difficult question to answer and public civilians are usually unaware or misinformed of who they are fighting against. They think they know why and who they are fighting but most of times they do not. They are told to hate an entire county yet personally they know of not one person living in that county. For instance I wonder if any Americans knew personally any one person that was incinerated by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan? Were those that perished the enemy? Were they responsible for WWII? Or were the few and their differences the cause of such destruction?

Please friends do not undermine the grip that sin has on the world. As I wrote in my previous post, Jesus had this to say in regards to sin,“Truly truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”{1} Because we are slaves to sin, we need to be saved from sin. Only in God and his infinite wisdom and love for mankind may we find salvation from our sins.

So What Is God’s Plan to Save Humanity From Sin?


The over story of history written in the Scriptures teaches that starting with Adam and Eve, all have sinned therefore all will perish in sin. But don’t worry! God has a plan for us as prophesied through the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Isaiah, nearly 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Let me repeat myself so that this can be fully appreciated – The words you are about to read were written almost a thousand years before Jesus and were well known by the time of his birth. Here is what Isaiah wrote:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Spirit of the LORD [YHWH] will rest on him–

The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

The Spirit of counsel and of power,

The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD [YHWH].”

He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

He was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
”{3}{4}{5}

Fast forwarding through time we read what the last old testament prophet, John the Baptist, had to say regarding Jesus:

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand;

Whoever obeys the Son has eternal life;

Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life,

but the wrath of God remains on him.”{6}

It seems clear that Jesus knew who he was when he said:

I am the way, the truth, and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.

If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.

From now on you do know him and have seen him.” {7}

Following Jesus’s ministry, death, and resurrection, the apostle Paul had this to say:

As one trespass led to the condemnation for all men,

so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

For as by the one mans disobedience the many were made sinners,

so by the one mans obedience the many will be made righteous.{8}

In other words, Paul is saying that although sin was brought into the world by one man’s (Adams) sin, so by one man’s (Jesus) obedience and sacrifice we may not die but have eternal life. Death through Adam, life through the only sinless man and Son of God – Jesus.

Did you notice the exclusivity of the claims made by Jesus and his disciples? That Jesus is the ONLY way to Heaven? This is a very dividing theological founding that many seem to frown at. One that apparently Oprah, of the Oprah Winfrey Show, seemed to dismiss when she said, “There are many paths to God. Literally millions of ways. It is like a mountain and it’s peak – We all are heading for the same destination, only we may take a different path.” {9} So at first glance, Jesus’s statement that he is “The Way” may seem offensive to those who place their faith in other cults and world religions. They may say how can Jesus say that he is the only way to God? How intolerant of Christians to believe that!

My reply? Read the Gospels of Jesus and study other world religions for yourself. When one does so with an open heart they will discover the context of who Jesus was and consider his impact upon the world against other spiritual leaders of the past. They will find that unlike any other:

Jesus lived mostly a solitary life

He was born of a virgin in less than sanitary conditions to a lowly Jewish family

He owned no house, no livestock, no possessions, and walked everywhere he went

Nothing about him was noble

It is written that Jesus performed many miraculous signs in a number of verified sources:

The lame walked

The sick were healed

The dead were raised.

He fed 5000 men once with only a few fish and loaves of bread

He demonstrated power over nature by commanding a raging storm to cease.

Jesus is the only man who claimed, and many believed, to be the only-begotten Son of God

He is the only man who claimed to have the divine authority to forgive sins and give eternal life

He is the only man in recorded history that claimed he would rise from the dead and backed it up.

In three short years of ministry, he turned an entire nation and empire upside down.

In three short years more is written about this one solitary man than any figure or king in history

He fulfilled prophecy

He came to save man

But at last he did not save

He was put to shameful death upon a cross

But claimed beforehand that he would rise again

His bones are still missing

Because he claimed he would come again….

Will you accept Jesus as your savior from sin? Would you like to get to know more about him and his mission? I challenge anyone that would consider him to take the 21 day challenge. Which is to pick up and read one chapter everyday from the Gospel of John until the 21st chapter (Takes about 10 minutes /day max). Afterwards reflect on what is said and answer this question: Who is Jesus?

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-21

Happy Easter and God Bless!

{1} John 8:34

{3}Isaiah 9:6

{4}Isaiah 11:1-5

{5} Isaiah 53

{6} John 3:36

{7} John 14:6-7

{8} Romans 5:18-19 

{9} Oprah Winfrey Show: Video Link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb2RUpMDk34

Easter pt 1 – Why Care?

What is the meaning of Easter? Have you ever asked this question? The textbook Sunday school answer is that Easter is a celebration for when Jesus the Christ died for our sins. I remember hearing this as a young student but struggled to understand what it meant to say that he died for our sins. What is sin? And why would someone have to die for us to be saved from sin? In a more general sense, why should you or I care? Does this even concern us? These are honest questions and some that I have posed in the past .

Concerning “Easter” let us read what the apostle Paul wrote to a Jewish/Gentile Church in Rome:

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”{1}

Sure Paul does not use the term “Easter” in his letter. But he is describing the death and resurrection of Jesus – called Easter. What he reveals in this letter is that by what Jesus did on the cross, as hard as it may be to comprehend, he did it to reconcile us with God. We are saved through him.

  • Sin and man – Every man and woman possess a sin nature that separates us from God. What is sin and how has it affected the history of mankind?

  • Justification – God is Holy, we are sinful. How then can we stand before a Holy God and be justified in sin?

  • Reconciliation – God is our Creator. We are his creation. Because our sin separates us from God – How then are we going to be able to be reconciled to him and receive eternal life with him?

  • Life After life – There are two places written in scripture that man travels after passing from this life: Eternal life with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ or Eternal separation from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the words of Jesus himself – not a “church” fabrication as some cults and religions would have you believe.

Sin and Man

If Jesus’s death on the cross was supposed to save us, what was he saving us from? We can learn this answer from a dialogue Jesus has with some Jews of that time:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my words, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have learned from your father.”{2}

Slaves to Sin

Jesus was trying to present a clear message through to those that heard him. However initially he confused them when he said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set us free.” I think rightly the Jews asked him how they could be called slaves if they are slaves to no one? Jesus’s answer: “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Before we can seek to understand how the son could set us free, it would be helpful to get to know our enemy – Our sinful nature.

Know Thou Enemy – What is Sin? Sin is defined most accurately as ‘missing the mark’. The ‘mark’ being a type of holy perfection; the mark standard set by Holy God. A perfection not reachable by man alone. It is our sin that keeps us separate from the glory of God and from attaining true peace in this world. The Bible teaches that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…For the wages of Sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”{3}{4}

Have you ever known a person that does everything right? A person who never commits wrong? What does modern culture tell us about sin?

Examples of Sin

It took me all of five minutes of searching the news to see the manifestation of sin in this world. Keep in mind, some may not believe in any religious figure or religion. Thats fine. These atrocities are independent of religion and universally acknowledged as heinous, or evil, crimes against humanity. (Note: These news stories were top stories at the time of this writing)

Murdered and Dismembered:Three Ohioans and two Michigan residents have been arrested in connection with an Ohio woman who police say was stabbed, suffocated and dismembered in a bathtub before some of her remains were taken to northern Kentucky.{5}

Gang Raped, Strangled, and Burned: Oksana Makar, the 18-year-old Ukrainian woman who was gang raped, nearly strangled, and set on fire, died today in the hospital, the Kyiv Post reports.{6}

Two Murders – One a Two Year Old Child:Suzanne Jones, 34, and her two-year-old son William were found dead at their home in Porthmadog, Gwynned, on Friday night. Police have said Mrs Jone’s husband and William’s father, David Wyn Jones, 42, has been charged with their murders.{7}

Dictators and Genocide:

  • Pol Pot –Contributed to the deaths of approximately 2 million people!
  • Adolf Hitler –Contributed to the deaths of approximately 6 million people!
  • Joseph Stalin –Contributed to the deaths of approximately 50 million people!

Other Quick facts:

  • Did you know that Germany was one of the best educated countries in the world at the time of the Holocaust?

  • Did you know that WWII was the bloodiest war in history? 60 million people were killed as a result of it which was over 2.5% of the world population at that time.

  • Every year approximately 15 million children die of hunger while for the price of one missile, it is estimated that a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years. I wonder how many children could have eaten at the cost of WWII?

It is easy to see that sin is very real and very present today. It wreaks pain and sadness beyond measure into the lives of countless persons. We hurt others or fail to help others in need. Sin is at the core of every man and is something that must be dealt with. Why? Because sin’s destruction has existed since the beginning (one can say since recorded history) and continues to permeate our lives in the present. I know that sin is hard to take in, discuss, and acknowledge. But it shouldn’t be and I will tell you why. Because around 2000 years ago, the one in the wilderness who prepared Israel for the birth of Jesus said, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” {8}

{1} Romans 5:9-11

 {2} John 6:63

 {3} Romans 3:23

{4} Romans 6:23

{5} http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/04/01/dismembered-ohio-woman-was-stabbed-suffocated-police-say/

{6} http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/125120/

{7} http://www.worthingherald.co.uk/news/national/family-mourns-woman-and-young-son-1-3688768

{8}John 1:9



The Not Very Religious, Religious Scholar

Before reading this post, it is of absolute importance to read what the Apostle Paul wrote concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Keep in mind that the vast majority of contemporary scholarship agree that Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians is one of the earliest and best attested historical writings we have concerning Jesus and his resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1-7,13: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

A few month ago I was reading through Scientific Magazine and notice a certain advertisement.  The title of the advertisement read:

How Has Christianity Changed Over 2,000 Years?

Follow the Story of Lost Christianities, An Intriguing, 24-Lecture Series In Audio or DVD

This “Lost Christianities” lecture series is lead by New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman who, as the article states, is the James A.Gray Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Ehrman has received his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. From Princeton Theological Seminary and has written or edited more than 15 books on various religious topics.

At first glance it seems  that Bart Ehrman is a smart religious fellow!  He must be.  He’s the department chair of religious studies at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.  He’s written 15 books.  The article even says that he has a doctorate degree from Princeton Seminary.  With a resume like his we should all assume that Dr. Ehrman is an intelligent religious scholar correct? Not so fast….

Dr. Ehrman is no doubt an intelligent man and a reputable scholar.  But what he believes about the New Testament and God is quite a bit different than most so called “religious” persons.  You see, one thing the article failed to mention about Dr. Ehrman is that he is a proclaimed agnostic.  An agnostic is much different than a Christian or any religious person that believes in God.  An agnostic is a person with the theological view that belief in God is not knowable.  Rather than making a decision as to the existence or non existence of God they simply say, ‘I am not convinced therefore I do not know if God exists’.

Unfortunately, Dr. Ehrman’s non-belief  perspective of God breaths massive implications into his individual field of study – i.e.how he views miracles, the Bible, Jesus, etc…  For example he has said concerning the resurrection appearances of Jesus:

“My best guess is that what happened is what commonly happens today when someone has a loved one die — they sometimes think they see them in a vision,” Ehrman says. “I think some of the disciples had visions.”

Dr. Ehrman comes to his conclusions not solely based off of scriptural evidence.  If he did, then no biblical historian would accept the writings concerning the post-mortem appearances of Jesus as true.  In fact as a side note, there have been many scholars with equal or greater credentials than Ehrman who have been able to trust the resurrection appearances.  While this is not a popularity contest it does at least allow for the possibility that he might be taking his doubts too far in the face of good evidence.  Still what would cause Dr. Ehrman’s conclusions to differ so much from a historian that firmly believes in the resurrection appearances of Jesus?  The reason is because Dr. Ehrman’s conclusions are not based off of the evidence alone but also off of the presuppositions he holds regarding the existence of God.  It is his agnosticism perspective that guides his research.  That since he does not hold a belief that God exists, than it follows logically that miracles can not occur.  Dr. Ehrman writes,

“Because historians can only establish what probably happened, and a miracle of this nature is highly improbable, the historian cannot say it probably occurred.”1

Therefore in all of Dr. Ehrman studies and research however thorough he may be, any reference to a miracle occurring must be thrown out as not viable and not possible.  This radically changes the way he views many of the events in the Bible thus how he teaches it.  No God, no miracles, no belief in the Bible, no resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

About the Bible’s authenticity the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy that, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”2

Scholar Dr. Ehrman, however, shares a different opinion:

“What if God didn’t say it?  What if the book you take as giving you God’s words instead contains human words?  What if the Bible doesn’t give a fool proof answer to questions of the modern age – Western-style democracy, and the like?  What if we have to figure out how to live and what to believe on our own, without setting up the Bible as a false idol – or an oracle that gives us a direct line of communication with the Almighty?” 3

What if we have to figure out how to live and what to believe on our own?  What if we figure out that the Bible is a false idol?  These comments do not sound like those coming from the mouth of a very “religious” person.  Not at all.  In fact his words sound more like those from the mouth of a anti-religious person.  This is supposed to be one of our esteemed educational leaders.  A figure you can trust and turn too with questions regarding your studies of the faith.  Indeed I wonder how many eyes he has turned blind to faith in Christ because of his lack of belief?  Is that the role a religious educator should play?  To bring doubt into the minds of those studying because he does not believe?  Or should an educational leader serve the role of an objective source who provides both sides of the story so that the students can make up their own minds?  I do not say this as an attack on Dr. Ehrman, not at all.  However I call in to question the institution of Christian education itself.  Let me explain further by introducing you to another influential writer, academic, and pastor.

Another example of a so called “religious” scholar is Dr. John Shelby Spong – partner of the famous “Jesus Seminar”.  Dr. Spong, whose books have sold more than a million copies, was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years before his retirement in 2001.  He is a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches worldwide.  His bestselling books include Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, A New Christianity for a New World, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and Here I Stand

Here is what Dr. Spong had to say regarding the resurrection of Jesus in a recent debate he had with prominent theologian and philosopher Dr. William Craig:

“The idea that it was a body that walked out of the tomb is not even an appealing idea to me.  I don’t need for it to be physical.  I find it rather amazing that religious people who talk about the life of the spirit discover that the spiritual things have no meaning unless they can be attached to physical symbols.  And I’d like to suggest that spiritual is a word that is a lot bigger than that and one we ought not diminish by sort of hacking it because its not attached to some physical resuscitation.

He goes on to say, “The idea that God would reverse the life process and do billions of individual miracles to bring back a body that has been dead for three days strikes me as to make God a kind of miracle worker.  But I am so convinced of the reality of the experience that I keep looking for a way that I can open that experience into the common mind of people and they can walk into it.”

Dr. Spong said that the idea that it was a body that walked out of the tomb is not appealing to him.  If the resurrection of Jesus is unappealing to Dr. Spong, than why is he trying so hard to convince others to share in his dissatisfaction?  Should we base our beliefs of truth on Dr. Spong’s personal feelings?  By no means!  If we did, than we would all be guilty of viewing truth in a subjective manner and through the lens perspective of what others feel is truth – rather than following the evidence and discovering it for ourselves.

Dr. Spong also claims that by believing what the Apostle Paul wrote 2000 years ago we are diminishing the event of the resurrection.  And that God must be some sort of miracle worker in order to bring Jesus back from the dead.  I say the New Testament makes it very clear that God is The Miracle Worker!  It says He created the entire Universe and everything in it.  He breaths life into us.  He healed the lame, the sick, and the blind.  He is also responsible for raising Jesus from the dead.  But why would Dr. Spong be so eager to reject the idea of the resurrection?  I believe that Dr. Spong, like Dr. Ehrman, must hold some hidden assumptions or presuppositions for rejecting the truth of the New Testament.  What does the Bible say about unbelief in the cross of Christ?  “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 4

Lastly Dr. Spong claims the he is so convinced of the reality of the experience that he keeps looking for a way that he can  open that experience into the common mind of people and they can walk into it.  What does that even mean?  He doesn’t even believe in the resurrection!  So what experience is he referring to that he want to opens peoples minds too?  It is to my understanding of Dr. Spong’s writings that his mission is to convince others of a very different Gospel than that which was handed to us by the earliest disciples.  One example is that he claims that instead of Jesus’s body being raised into heaven, it was most likely thrown to dogs and eaten – leaving no body behind.  Dr. Spong adds this and many other non-gospel variants to the story of Jesus.  All because he does not find the truth of a resurrected Jesus Christ “appealing”.

Now I want to close by reminding the reader of what the Apostle Paul said, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”  So how come we have religious teachers and preachers teaching a non-resurrected Christ?  What is their purpose?  What is their motive?  If Jesus was not raised from the dead like Dr. Ehrman and Dr. Spong wantus to believe, than why did eleven of the twelve disciples endure torture and shameful death for their belief in a resurrected Christ?  Without a risen Christ, how would one explain the drastic rise and spread of Christianity in a first century Jewish state?  N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, “That  as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.”5  But again if Jesus did not rise from the tomb, why do people 2000 years later accept Christ as a real experience and attend seminary school to become pastors and teachers of the Christian faith?  Why do we bother waking up every Sunday morning to attend church services?  Why pray and place our hope in a dead Jesus?

The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Therefore, let us [be aware of the detractors and] hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised this is faithful.” 6 So protect your heart and mind.  Read the Bible for yourself.  Learn to discern truth and believe!  Peace and God bless.

{1}Bart Ehrman, “Historical Jesus,” Part II, p. 50

{2} 2 Timothy 3:16-17

{3} Bart Ehrman, “Misquoting Jesus”, p. 14

{4}1 Corinthians 1:18

{5}N. T. Wright, “The New Unimproved Jesus,” Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26

{6} Romans 10:9, Hebrews 10:23