Saturday, May 30, 2009

RTM Video Production in full swing!

In preparation for the upcoming fall conference, the RTM video production department is working full speed ahead on promotional materials. First up is a video explaining who RTM is and showing the need for the ministry. Several testimonials have been filmed, and they turned out to be very powerful. God provided for His work! We did have some challenges on Friday morning. The Weather Channel forecasted "abundant sunshine," and as we geared up to do an outdoor shoot, dark clouds rolled in. That shoot will be rescheduled for next week. Pray for RTM as we move forward and proclaim the supremacy of Christ!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Christianity—Truth or Interpretative Possibility?

By S. Michael Durham

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, concerning the Word of life——the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us——that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3).

The Apostle John in the introduction of his first epistle established an apologetic that is one of the most significant for the historicity, honesty and defense of Christianity. It is unassailable. He declares that he is an eyewitness of Jesus. He heard Him, saw Him and touched Him.

The significance of this can be explained by one question, “Will men die for something they believe?” The answer is yes. It happens all the time. The willingness for a man to die for what he believes may be admirable, but it isn’t a proof of the validity of what he believes. It only proves that he believes it. It may be true and it may not. For example, today radical Islamic men will strap bombs to their bodies and walk into a crowded street or building and blow themselves up, killing innocent bystanders because they believe if they give their lives for Allah, killing the “infidels,” they will automatically enter paradise where they will be greatly rewarded. This was a foundational belief to our 9/11 tragedy. The men that guided those planes into buildings believed their cause and doctrine dogmatically.

So, it is accurate to say that men will die for things they believe to be true. But will a man die for something he believes to be untrue? And the answer is no. Not even a delusional person will die for something he does not believe is real. In the case of the delusional individual, he does not believe reality to be real, and therefore lives according to the “reality” his mind creates. He believes his psychotic imaginations to be real.

Therefore, God designed and built within the storyline of the gospel compelling and logical evidences for faith to rest upon. He chose 12 men, who would see, hear and touch the gospel, Jesus Christ, before and after His death and resurrection. God would not build His kingdom on construable or interpretive possibilities. In other words, something that could possibly be true if the interpretation of the storyline is accurate. In the case of history, there is very little objective evidence with which to test theories and possibilities. You can’t put historic possibilities into a test tube and do experiments. The only way you can verify reports from history is from the accounts of eyewitnesses. Do the accounts have enough similarity to say the event actually happened?

Let’s use a test case—Joseph Smith and his claim that an angel gave him a golden tablet. Here we have an interpretive possibility. You can interpret Smith’s claim (he is the only supposedly eyewitness of this supposed event) one of four ways:

1. An angel from God did give him a golden tablet.
2. A demonic spirit gave him a golden tablet.
3. He lied.
4. He was delusional.

It is possible that the first theory—an angel did give Joseph Smith a golden table—is correct, but there is no way to verify it. Thus, it remains a construable possibility. One can believe Mormonism is true, but his faith must leap into the dark without any evidence. Christianity is not this way. God would not have any of His children to leap into the dark, but rather into the light as He is in the light. Biblical faith is an evidential faith and not an interpretive possibility. We have the eyewitness account of twelve men who saw the risen Lord Jesus whose testimonies agree, and they all died knowing what they had seen, heard, and handled was true.

Chuck Colson, former Chief Counsel for President Nixon, tells how that Watergate proves the reports of the apostles’ accounts of the resurrection. Colson declares that when all the parties of the Watergate break-in found out that White House Counsel John Dean had hired an attorney and was cooperating with federal prosecutors, they all hired attorneys and began to back away from the lies and deception of the cover-up. His point was that none of them were willing to suffer on behalf of a lie. They would suffer to protect their reputations or the reputation of another, but they were not willing to go to prison for something they knew was not true.

It goes against human psychology that the apostles would have gladly died for something they knew not to be true if Christ had not risen from the dead. One may counter and say that the apostles were not purposefully and willfully lying but they were delusional and thus willing to die for what they believed to be true even though in reality it wasn’t. But in the providence of God this argument cannot prevail, for God so designed the events of the gospel that even the apostles did not believe the first reports of the resurrection; they did not show signs of gullibility. The first eyewitnesses of the resurrection were not the 12, but women. In the culture of the first century, women were never credible witnesses. In fact, Jewish law prohibited women as witnesses. Yet, these were the first witnesses—an interesting way to start a new religion in a world that does not accept women as credible witnesses. You would think that if Christianity was the invention of men they would not have done so. However, the apostles were not so easily deluded. They refused to believe the report of the women.

Two disciples associated with Jesus reported to the eleven apostles that they saw Jesus, but they were not believed either because when the two men were explaining what happened, Jesus appeared to all of them in the room and they refused to believe their own eyes. They thought what they were seeing was an apparition of some sort. Jesus had to prove to them He was physically alive from the dead by eating a piece of broiled fish. So if they were so mentally disturbed and depressed, grasping at straws to believe anything good, why not believe the reports or their own eyes, for that matter? It seems they were just the opposite, attempting to be empirical in their conclusions.

In God’s infinite wisdom, He had one of the twelve absent from the upper room when He appeared the night of the resurrection. Thomas was not there. When he returned the others told him what had happened. His reaction was to not believe the testimony of his own comrades. He said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Again, if these men were subject to mental instability because of the trauma they had undergone, it would seem that they would want to believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. But as the accounts testify that was not the case. It took the hardest of evidence to convince them—the resurrected Christ Himself. Thomas’ doubt is a proof for the faith of others. He was not in the room that night to show that he, nor the other apostles were neither gullible nor psychotic. They were very rational men, doubting even the very validity of credible witnesses. But in the end they all did believe and died for what they believed. Why? Was it because they believed the testimonies of what others saw? No, it was because they saw for themselves. They as John says, “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, concerning the Word of life.”

This leads us to a final point—that these men had to die for our faith to have credibility in the historicity of Christianity. It was the seal of their belief in what they, not only believed, but witnessed to be true. Amazing isn’t it that all of the original apostles died for their testimonies as eyewitnesses of the resurrected Savior? When Jesus said that if they were to follow Him they would have to deny themselves and pick up a cross, He really meant it. After Judas hanged himself, being the traitor of Christ, six of the remaining eleven men who heard Jesus say, “pick up your cross and come after Me,” did so. They, too, were crucified. All of them died martyrs’ deaths for proclaiming that they had seen Jesus alive after witnessing His death. God so loved us that not only gave us His Son to die for our salvation, but also gave 12 men to die for our faith. They did not die simply believing something to be true, but knowing it firsthand.

Twelve men had to die for our faith to not be an interpretative possibility. How must I die so that the faith of another is not an interpretative possibility? How can my life be a link in the chain back to the evidential and historical truth of Jesus Christ? “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24).