How is Christianity Different? | Dave Mann

Transcript

How is Christianity different to the other religions?

Well – When many people think of religion they think of a set of rules and regulations, traditions and obligations. What we uniquely find in Christianity is a God who wants something much deeper and more personal than that.

Christianity is based on God’s love and kindness. The Christian God loves me and you – and He is willing to go to great lengths to show it. 

Significantly – this means that my friendship with God is not earned by my own efforts. This is the key area in which Christianity is unique among the religions.

In all other religions our ‘salvation’ and ‘good’ are earned through what we do – through our efforts, and the fulfilling of religious duties or rituals.

In Hinduism I am saved by overcoming karma and escaping endless incarnations by good works.

In Islam I am saved by belief in Allah, Muhammad his prophet, and good works.

In Buddhism it is about getting rid all desires through the eight-fold path.

But in Christianity I am saved by faith alone in Christ alone.

It is about what Christ Jesus has done – not what I do!

To explain that a bit: In love, at the cross, Christians believe God was present amongst us in Jesus. Jesus then died to take the punishment for OUR wrongs, so that we could be restored to a living, real relationship with God – who is over all.

–        So our access to God and heaven doesn’t come from following a bunch of rules and regulations 

–        Nor from busying ourselves with rituals or habits, or being good.

–        Instead –friendship with God is a gift from God – given to us despite the wrongs we have all done. With no catch other than the fact that we must choose to receive the gift.

Of course, after that, the Christian should do good. But the key point here is that good works are about us showing our love back to God because we’re so grateful for what he‘s already done – already given us. The good works aren’t what earns us the friendship – they are evidence of the friendship we already have.

Now – before finishing, there are certainly other areas in which Christianity is unique. In particular, this faith changes peoples lives in a really unique way.

Many religions people have spiritual experiences – but if you make a study of the testimonies of Christians – beyond the experiences – you’ll find that people’s lives somehow change significantly.

The pattern is remarkable. It also follows that, wherever there has been a sustained Christian influence in a nation or society, that amazing Christian values like charity, equality, tolerance and freedom have come into those societies, making them – not perfect, but surprisingly good places to live.

This certainly includes our own nation, which is built upon this same Christian foundation, in terms of the values we embrace as New Zealanders.

So – how is Christianity different amongst all the religions?

Beyond its unique impact – the main thing is in how we get to God: It’s about what he has done, not about what we must do – that’s the difference!

What Good Has Christianity Done for the World? | Dave Mann

Historian, Paul Maier said  “No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation, or movement—has changed the world for the better like Christianity. 

Clearly”, he said, “it has had its shortcomings but they are heavily outweighed by its benefits to all mankind”

What are those benefits?

When Christ came to earth society was divided and male-dominated. Women were men’s property with few rights. One out of four people were slaves; Killing children was legal and even celebrated – Pedophilia was unashamedly practiced.

The poor, hungry, sick, and dying were often mistreated. Compassion was not common.

In contrast Jesus preached and practiced that all people were equal, – regardless of sex, race, health, age or status. His message was to love and honour, even those considered insignificant- like the women, children, various despised races, slaves, and the sick.

 The unparalleled teachings of Jesus went on to inspire his followers to pursue justice for all.

Early Christians helped to elevate the status of these various despised people groups. They encouraged men to faithfully love and honour one wife.

They protected and supported widows. They bought slaves in the market place simply to set them free.

Outraged by the molestation and killing of children, they banned their followers from these practices – and began to stand within society for social change.

Over the centuries that followed Christians were pivotal in seeing many things change around the world – including the practice of burning widows in Asia made illegal;

in seeing child sacrifices abolished in many countries; in implementing Child labour laws so children weren’t forced to work in atrocious conditions;

and in seeing the international slave trade abolished, freeing thousands of slaves.

There was no minimum age of consent for sex until William Booth of the salvation army campaigned for it in England to stop what we would all consider today to be the widespread abuse of children. 

And then after protecting life, they worked to improve it, working with the poor, mistreated and sick. The establishment of the first hospitals and orphanages was due to Christian efforts – and then spread to all continents of the world.

The first attempt at education for all – including male and female, wealthy and poor – was by Christians, and schools around the globe were then established, yet again, by missionaries who were working to improve the conditions and opportunities of the local people.

At a tertiary level, many respected universities globally, like Oxford, Harvard and Yale, began as Christian institutions.  

This isn’t to mention a wide range of other areas in which the followers of Jesus have significantly impacted the world:

For example, large numbers of the modern sciences’ founders were Christians including Kepler, Pascal, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton and Ernest Rutherford.

In the Arts there’s been enormous and surprising Christian influence – inspired by the amazing concept of grace that Christianity brought to the table.

Christian writers such as C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Dickens, have all impacted the world.

Renowned musicians of centuries gone also pioneered in the area of music, in ways that it is difficult for us to understand today – because we assume what they established – including Bach, Handel and Vivaldi’s – all Christians who worked to honor God. 

Bach use to sign all his works with the words Soli Deo Gloria (“Solely to the glory of God”).

There have also been phenomenal architectural buildings, paintings and sculptures created by people acknowledging God as their inspiration.

Michelangelo – widely considered the greatest artistic genius that ever lived – believed his art was divinely inspired by God and reflected His Glory.

To close with a quote from Broadcaster James Kennedy, he wrote, “…All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.”

Has Christianity brought good to this world? More so than we can comprehend!

I’m Dave Mann from Shining Lights Trust for Thinking Matters.

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Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey | Book Club | June 2020

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Did the Disciples Hallucinate the Resurrected Jesus? | Evidence for the Resurrection | Michelle Englehardt

Transcript

“One of the most popular challenges sceptics use against the appearances of the risen Jesus is the Hallucination Theory. This is the belief that the followers of Jesus were so distraught by his death that they hallucinated His appearance three days later. Let’s examine this theory:

One of the earliest writings we have about the post-resurrection appearances is found in an intriguing letter written by Paul to the Corinthians, which contains this early creed:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins- according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day – according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians: 15:3-8)

What is fascinating about this creed is that scholars date it to within only a few years of the resurrection events. Because of this, it shows that the early church had settled on the belief in the resurrection appearances very early on. But could their experiences have been hallucinations? Interestingly, Hallucinations have a psychological basis, happening from within a person’s mind. If I were to have a hallucination, I could not share that experience with you. In fact, you would not be able to see or experience what I was seeing or experiencing, because my hallucination would be created in my brain. And yet as we read in the Corinthian letter in one instance there were up to 500 men and women who saw Jesus at the same time.

Another interesting fact about Hallucinations is that they tend to happen in one, or in rare cases two, MODES or senses:  sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste. And yet remarkably we see that the eyewitnesses experienced more than one mode as they were able to see, hear and talk to Jesus – to touch him and even to eat with him during their shared experiences.

It was as if He was really there. In fact, the followers went to their deaths believing their experiences were real. Yet we know shared hallucinations are impossible. Some have claimed in their desperation to see Him, the disciples emotional states might have caused them to hallucinate their risen Messiah.

But is this reasonable?

Jesus mentioned several times leading up to his death that he would die and rise again, however it appears the disciples did not really grasp what that meant. The idea Jesus was their Messiah was destroyed when He was crucified by the Romans. It was humiliating for them – to see their leader killed – not in a great battle, but in a dehumanising manner reserved for common criminals and dissenters. Rather than working themselves up into a frenzy causing them to hallucinate a risen messiah, the disciples struggled to come to terms with their bitter disappointment in Him. In fact the majority of them scattered. They were not expecting to see him again. The Hallucination theory has no plausible psychological credibility . There was no good reason for the disciples to make such amazing claims unless they were real. 

To quote Tom Wright:

“We are left with the conclusion that the combination of empty tomb and appearances of the living Jesus forms a set of circumstances which is itself both necessary and sufficient for the rise of early Christian belief. Without these phenomena, we cannot explain why this belief came into existence, and took the shape it did. WITH them, we can explain it – exactly and precisely.””

Did Jesus Really Die on the Cross? | Evidence for the Resurrection | Michelle Englehardt

Transcript

One of the core events upon which Christianity stands is the Resurrection of Jesus. The Resurrection story is pivotal because by it Jesus proved once and for all that He really WAS who He claimed to be – God incarnate.

Author and thinker CS Lewis once pointed out, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or the devil of hell.

C S Lewis is right!

Jesus was so much more than a human teacher. He proved the truth and power of His deity by resurrecting from the dead. Of course, this claim has raised many oppositional theories about what happened that weekend almost two thousand years ago, in order to discredit the resurrection story. In this video I want to address one of those theories called the Swoon Theory.

This theory suggests Jesus didn’t die, but only appeared to be dead on the cross – reviving in the cool of the tomb in which he was buried and therefore able to appear to his followers by the Monday. But is this feasible? Did Jesus survive the cross? Crucifixion was a slow torturous way to die. But there were other things that Jesus went through on his way to the cross that made his ability to survive even more unlikely. In the gospel accounts we read that Jesus was captured, brought before the Chief Priest Caiaphas, beaten and mocked and then delivered to the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, with a demand he be crucified for blasphemy.

He was then sent to be scourged. Much of the art we see depicting the crucifixion shows Jesus with blood on his body but otherwise looking remarkably intact. In reality, scourging was so brutal it killed many before they even made it to crucifixion. The instruments used in scourging were created to inflict maximum damage and blood loss, to bring the criminal to the point of death. We also read that after his scourging, Jesus was far too weak and damaged to carry his own cross to his crucifixion.

Then, we have the crucifixion itself.

The Romans did not invent crucifixion but they had two centuries in which to perfect their use of it. By the time Jesus was led to the cross, the Romans had killed thousands of people using this horrific method. The final cause of death was usually asphyxiation or exhaustion through the exertion of trying to breathe with arms stretched out across the beam of their cross. Roman executioners were professional killers, whose own lives depended on successful executions.

They had techniques of ensuring A criminal was dead, such as breaking the crucified’s legs to hasten asphyxiation or piercing them through with a sword. We read Jesus died before the soldiers needed to break his legs but just to be sure he was dead, the executioners pierced him with a sword and blood and water ran out. For centuries this reference to blood and water was not fully understood. But today we know this is a sign of pericardial or pleural effusion – the medical term for when fluid surrounds the heart or lungs due to trauma.

For Jesus to suffer:

  • A beating
  • the physical distress and blood loss of scourging,
  • asphyxiation on the cross,
  • being pierced by a sword,
  • then sealed in a tomb…
  • And yet somehow managing to revive himself,
  • pushing back the massive rock in front of his tomb,
  • and then appearing to his followers
  • in a condition that convinced them He was their resurrected Messiah?

No… Jesus didn’t just pass for being dead on the cross, he was executed and died.

For him to be alive again three days later… It would have taken a miracle. And it did.

Was Jesus Tomb Really Empty? | Evidence for the Resurrection | Michelle Englehardt

Transcript

While defending the Resurrection of Jesus, William Lane Craig said:

“One of the most remarkable facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified.”

Had it not been true the Resurrection should have been an easy myth to dispel from the get-go.

And yet it wasn’t.

Sceptics have tried to explain away the miracles and events that make up the Resurrection Story.

In this video I will look at the sceptical belief that the burial and empty tomb narratives found in the resurrection story are simply fabrications. 

They believe that Jesus was not buried, but his body was either left on the cross or thrown into a shallow grave and eaten by dogs or birds.

Could the sceptics be right?

In this video I will look at how unlikely it is the burial and empty tomb narratives found in the historical texts of Mark, Luke and John, are merely fabrications.

One compelling piece of evidence for the burial of Jesus comes from Joseph of Arimathea.

Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man and a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin – the high court who had called for Jesus’s crucifixion.

We see in the gospel accounts that Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus –   offering his very own, recently made tomb to inter it   — 

This narrative begs the question – why would Joseph risk his position of power and authority to ask for the body of an executed heretic?

Going back to our historical texts we see that Joseph was also secretly a disciple of Jesus and it took great courage for him to ask for the body of this crucified Jewish man.

For a well-known man to take the body and bury it in his own tomb would have been very easy to prove false had it not happened.

Because of this it makes no sense the early Church would fabricate this part of the story as it was testable at the time.

That Jesus was buried is a plausible part of the resurrection story.

But was the tomb empty?

We see in Matthew 28 that early on the Sunday morning, a group of women went to prepare the body of Jesus and found the tomb empty.

In those days, Women were not thought of as credible witnesses, even in court.

So, when writing on the events of the resurrection, it makes little sense the early church would include this piece of information.

Women did not have good standing in the patriarchal society of the time and were thought of as second-class citizens. 

And we see this when the disciples did not believe the women’s testimony and running to the tomb to find out for themselves.

Again, it would NOT have been difficult to prove the story of the empty tomb was a fabrication, yet no one did. It did not make sense to include women as first witnesses unless the writer’s purpose was to tell all that had actually happened. 

The burial of Jesus would have been easy to disprove simply by talking to witnesses of the events.

We have enough circumstantial evidence withing these two narratives to conclude Jesus was buried and his tomb was found empty.

Despite the cries of fabrication from sceptics, no good evidence has come to light to disprove these events.

It would only have taken the body, or later bones of Jesus or a body of hostile testimony to prove the sceptics right. But it just isn’t there.

Likewise, no convincing evidence has come to light in the last almost 2000 years to disprove the Resurrection story. And the Christian Church whose very existence depends on the Resurrection of Jesus continues to thrive.