A Defense of Jesus Christ and the West

"Come, let us reason together…"

1) THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
A. EARLY, EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY
B. MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE AND INTEGRITY
C. ARCHEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE
A TANGENTAL NOTE ON APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS IN THE TEXT

2) THE FACT OF THE CRUCIFIXION (WHICH ISLAM DENIES) AND SUBSEQUENT RESURRECTION
A. HIS TRIAL
MOTIVE!
MESSIANIC CLAIMS
DASHED HOPES
B. HIS DEATH — JEWISH, GREEK, AND ROMAN SOURCES
C. HIS EXECUTION
D. HIS BURIAL
A SIDE NOTE ON POLEMICS
E. THE EMPTY TOMB
F. WHO STOLE THE BODY?
G. THE “SWOON” THEORY
H. THE RESURRECTION APPEARANCES
I. NON-BIBLICAL SOURCES CONFIRM

3) THE DEITY OF CHRIST
A. HIS CLAIMS TO DEITY
B. HIS FORGIVENESS OF SINS
C. HIS ACCEPTANCE OF WORSHIP
D. HIS TRIAL
E. HIS MESSIANIC CLAIMS, CONTRASTED WITH HIS SUBLIME TEACHINGS AND MORAL CHARACTER
F. CHRIST’S SINLESS NATURE
G. CHRIST’S EXAMPLE

Christ’s Credentials
Christ’s incredible impact on world history
The Judeo-Christian worldview -- the impact on education, science, and law
Various Christian movements for good.
The art, literature, and music of the West
Natural Law, the Blessings of Liberty, and the US Constitution
Scriptural Influence on Western Tradition

ON THE DECLINE OF THE CHURCH
Christ's Stand Against Religious Leaders
Biblical Support for Decline of the Church
"By their fruits you will know them."



“Come, let us reason together…”

My cousin,

I watched your videos on Islam, and I wanted to write you a proper response.

Normally a conversation such as this might address questions like the evidence for a monotheistic God, or the credentials of Christ as a prophet (miracles, prophecies, etc.)

But such arguments are useless with a Muslim, because Muslims already believe in monotheism, and Muslims already accept Christ’s status as a prophet from God. So even the best proofs of the existence of God and of the miraculous nature of Christ’s work will be accepted anyway with open arms by a Muslim.

In fact, Muslims even believe that Jesus will return in the end times, and that he will work in concert with the Islamic ‘Mahdi’ to bring the entire world into submission under Islam, changing the laws and the times to Shari’ah law and the Muslim calendar. (Such an Islamic Christ would IMO truly have the horns of a lamb but speak like a dragon.)

Therefore, I prefer to focus on the crux of the issue. The biggest disagreements between Islam and Christianity are:

1) THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
2) THE FACT OF THE CRUCIFIXION (WHICH ISLAM DENIES) AND THE SUBSEQUENT RESURRECTION.
3) THE DEITY OF CHRIST.

Fortunately, these are points (1 and 2) for which there are very strong historical evidence. I would say even “the strongest possible” historical evidence.

I was disappointed to see your argument hinge on the historical unreliability of the New Testament, since that is a position that only the fringe adheres to in modern biblical scholarship.

1) THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

A. EARLY, EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY

The New Testament is a record of eyewitness accounts. There are multiple, independent traditions preserving eyewitness accounts of Jesus, as well as of Paul and the other apostles. These eyewitness accounts pass the historical tests of “multiple-attestation”, as well as “the criteria of embarrassment” as I will explain.

(2 Peter 1:16-19) For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

(1 John 1:1-4) What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life.

Luke wrote in the 1st century, in the preface to his gospel: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Luke’s introduction is written in the style of the Greek historians, and clearly states that his material is carefully investigated from multiple eyewitnesses and their many written accounts. This passage also corroborates the theory of Markan priority. (The theory that Matthew and Luke drew upon Mark—Peter’s memoirs—as source material for their own histories. See below for more on Luke’s accuracy and status as a historian.)

Authorship.

The uniform testimony of the early church was that the gospel of Mark was written by John Mark, a companion and secretary of the apostle Peter (the leader of the 12 disciples), "Luke-Acts" was written by Luke, the beloved physician, historian, and traveling companion to the apostle Paul, and the gospel of Matthew was written by another one of the twelve disciples, a tax collector also known as Levi.

Craig Blomberg: “There are no known competitors for authorship for these three gospels, it was apparently not in dispute.”

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was a persecutor of the early church who had been directly confronted and converted by the resurrected Christ while traveling on the road to Damascus with his men (on their way to arrest Christians and put them in chains.) Paul later spent years of his own life in chains for his testimony, before he was put to death. (The evidence concerning Paul would be an entirely separate email but I encourage you to Google it.)

FYI, other letters in the New Testament were written by the apostle Peter, the apostle John (who "reclined on Jesus' breast"), James and Jude (both were Jesus' half-brothers by Mary, and they had been skeptical of him before the resurrection.)

Would anyone have had a motive to lie about the authorship of the Gospels?

This passes the criteria of embarrassment, since Matthew was a tax collector, and Mark and Luke weren’t even apostles. (They would be unlikely choices in the event that an elaborate hoax was being perpetrated on history.) Contrast this with the fanciful names used in the apocryphal books of one or two hundred years later, such as the gospels of Peter, Mary, and James.

Authorship of the synoptic gospels is also confirmed by writings from Papias, who specifically affirmed that Mark had carefully and accurately recorded Peter’s eyewitness observations. He wrote that Mark ‘made no mistake’ and did not include ‘any false statement.’

Iraenus wrote in A.D. 180: “Matthew published his own Gospel among the Hebrews in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on his breast, himself produced his Gospel while he was living at Ephesus in Asia.”

Not only do Matthew and Luke provide multiple attestation of Mark (by including most of its text into their own) but they also preserve their own unique sources and source traditions. John is the gospel most in dispute, but still contains convincing evidence of eyewitness testimony, which is a subject for another email.

Thus we have Mark, we have John, we have ‘M’ (the materials unique to Matthew), ‘L’ (the materials unique to Luke), as well as the pre-Markan passion narrative preserved in Mark, as well as the hypothetical ‘Q’ source, preserved and multiply-attested by Matthew and Luke (but not in Mark!) Thus, words and actions of Jesus Christ were documented in at least six independent traditions, in some cases with the traditions also confirming each other (as in the case of the synoptic gospels, which include the text of Mark into their own.)

We also have the oral traditions preserved in the writings of Paul (certain creeds that he repeated in the text and addressed to a large audience as being taught to him by them.) All of these separate sources arise from independent traditions and pass the same tests of historical inquiry that are applied to other ancient writings.

How early are these sources? Here is just one example of the evidence in favor of the early authorship of Mark: The book of Acts fails to record the execution of Paul, as well as the great persecution of the early church by Nero. The only explanation for this (being written by Paul’s beloved traveling companion Luke to be a history of the early Church) is that the book of Acts was written before those events occurred, and that copies of Acts were already circulating in the churches by that time. It was too late for any additions to be made—at least, any additions that would pass the test of historical inquiry.

Therefore, if Acts was indeed written before A.D. 62, as the above evidence indicates, it stands to reason that Luke was written earlier still, since Acts is a sequel to Luke. And since Luke incorporates the text of Mark, (containing Peter’s memoirs), then Mark must have been written earlier still. Furthermore, Mark preserves a pre-Markan narrative of the passion of Christ that must have been written earlier still.

These writings come from Christ’s contemporaries, and their words are written with the confidence that others were in the audience—and that they all knew full well the truth of what was written. The New Testament consists of letters that these people all wrote to each other.

The apostles not only preached confidently, “We are witnesses of these things,” but also, “As you yourselves also know.” (Acts 2:22) Their words were spoken and written with eyewitnesses in the audience, people who were still alive at the time and who they challenged to disagree with what they had to say.

As Paul said, “This thing was not done in a corner.”

And the apostles also confirmed their testimony with miracles. What is the specific evidence of Muhammad doing likewise? [Note: one such piece of evidence is "the inimitability of the Koran."]

Furthermore, what historical documents have arisen, especially from multiple corroborating traditions, in any other culture or religion, giving such strong historical evidence of real miracles and resurrection? Is this not unique in human history?

Next: How do we know that the words of Christ and the apostles have reached us intact, across oceans of time?

B. MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE AND INTEGRITY

F.E. Peters states that, “On the basis of manuscript tradition alone, the works that make up the Christians’ New Testament were the most frequently copied and widely circulated books of antiquity.”

As a result, the fidelity of the New Testament text rests on a multitude of manuscript evidence.

Some atheists have argued that the Bible must be discarded entirely as a historical source, due to its intrinsic bias. But historians take bias into account, as it's assumed to be present in all sources. Regardless, books from the New Testament can still be used to establish or corroborate historical facts.

For example, the book of Galatians is not just some religious treatise from Paul to the world. Rather, it is a letter that Paul wrote to the church in Galatia. And while there is a wide range of New Testament scholarship, I think you will find that even among the most liberal wing, there is basically agreement that Paul really did write Galatians as a letter addressed to the church in Galatia, and that his passing mention of visiting "James, the brother of the Lord", while he was in Jerusalem, is one example of good historical evidence that Jesus Christ really was a historical person.

So regardless of your religious beliefs, the writings that make up the New Testament can be used to help establish various core historical truths, and cannot simply be thrown out just because some people revere them as scripture. To do so, from the perspective of a historian, even a liberal, non-believing historian, would be radical and wrong.

Has the text of Galatians (for example) been altered by scribes, intentionally or unintentionally, as it was copied over the ages?

A note from Wikipedia (I know, I know) on the text of Galatians:

No original of Galatians is known to survive. The earliest reasonably complete version available to scholars today, named P46, dates to approximately the year 200 A.D., approximately 150 years after the original was presumably drafted. This fragmented papyrus, parts of which are missing, almost certainly contains errors introduced in the process of being copied from earlier manuscripts.[1] However, through careful research relating to paper construction, handwriting development, and the established principles of textual criticism, scholars can be rather certain about where these errors and changes appeared and what the original text probably said. [2]

Counting Greek copies alone, the New Testament is preserved in 5,686 known manuscripts or fragments that were copied by hand on dates as early as the 2nd century A.D. The importance of the sheer number of manuscript copies cannot be overstated. Though the originals themselves are lost (which prevented tampering), the abundance of manuscript copies makes it possible to reconstruct the original with virtually complete accuracy. (Normal Geisler.)

Add in the over 10,000 Latin Vulgate translations and at least 9,300 other early versions, and there are close to 24,670 New Testament manuscripts in existence today. (In comparison, Homer’s Iliad is in second place, with 643 manuscripts—and the first complete preserved text of Homer dates from the 13th century.) It is astounding to compare the New Testament in this way with other ancient writings, and is interestingly illustrative of just how great an effect the Bible and Christianity have had on global literacy.

John Warwick Montgomery said, “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well-attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”

Dockery, Matthews, and Sloan wrote: “For most of the biblical text a single reading has been transmitted. Elimination of scribal errors and intentional changes leaves only a small percentage of the text about which any questions occur… It must be said that the amount of time between the original composition and the next surviving manuscript is far less for the New Testament than for any other work in Greek literature… Although there are certainly differences in many of the New Testament manuscripts, not one fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on any disputed reading.”

Sir Frederic G. Kenyon writes, “The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as firmly established.”

Edward Glenny: “The most remarkably preserved book in the ancient world.”

In comparison, F.F. Bruce writes, “[we have] only 9 or 10 copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and the oldest is some 900 years later than Caesar’s day. Of the 142 books of the Roman history of Livy (59 B.C.-A.D.17), only 35 survive; these are known to us from not more than 20 manuscripts of any consequence, only one of which, and that containing only fragments of Books III-IV, is as old as the fourth century.”

Ravi Zacharias says, “In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the document, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity.”

Clark Pinnock concludes: “There exists no document from the ancient world, witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies . . . Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational bias.”

C. ARCHEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE

Not only is the eyewitness and manuscript evidence there, but the archeological evidence backs it up as well. Unfortunately that will also have to be a subject for another email. In fact volumes have been written on this subject so I encourage anyone to research it and see for himself. Luke is a particularly good example. More than just a physician, Luke has an excellent reputation as a historian.

I will leave you with a partial list of the numerous archeological and historical confirmations of Luke’s archeological accuracy from Colin Hemer’s book, “The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History”:

a. Specialized details, which would not have been widely known except to a contemporary researcher such as Luke who traveled widely. These details include exact titles of officials, identification of army units, and information about major routes.
b. Details archeologists know are accurate but can’t verify as to the precise time period. Some of these are unlikely to have been known except to a writer who had visited the districts.
d. Correlation of dates of known kings and governors with the chronology of the narrative.
e. Facts appropriate to the date of Paul or his immediate contemporary in the church but not to a date earlier or later.
f. “Undesigned coincidences” between Acts and the Pauline Epistles.
g. Internal correlations within Acts.
h. Off-hand geographical references that bespeak familiarity with common knowledge.
i. Differences in formulation within Acts that indicate the different categories of sources he used.
j. Peculiarities in the selection of detail, as in theology, that are explainable in the context of what is now known in first-century church life.
k. Materials the “immediacy” of which suggests that the author was recounting a recent experience, rather than shaping or editing a text long after it had been written.
l. Cultural or idiomatic terms now known to be peculiar to the first-century atmosphere.

Roman Historian A. N. Sherwin-White agrees: “For Acts, the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming… Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”

E. M. Blailock, a professor of classics in Auckland University who spent 15 years of his career trying to debunk Luke: “Luke is a consummate historian, to be ranked in his own right with the great writings of the Greeks.”

The words that have come down to us from antiquity in the Scriptures are sound and they withstand the tests of historical inquiry, archeological discovery, and documentary analysis. Any argument is fallacious, in my opinion, that is based upon corruption of the New Testament text, legendary development over time, accumulation of errors, or lack of eyewitness testimony.

A TANGENTAL NOTE ON APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS IN THE TEXT:
Critics of the Bible often make reference to the various (apparently) contradictory secondary details in the different books. They don’t understand that to a historian, these details are a normal result of the difference in perspective that arises between multiple witnesses. (Such as "Mary went to the tomb" versus, "a group of women went to the tomb".) This phenomenon also arises in court.

The secondary differences are thus actually proof that the four gospels actually did arise from separate traditions, based on eyewitness testimony! Those traditions being: Mark, John, the materials unique to Matthew aka ‘M’, the materials unique to Luke aka ‘L’, and ‘Q’, a hypothetical source, referring to the ‘sayings’ materials in common between Matthew and Luke. (And BTW, if that isn’t enough letters of the alphabet for you, FYI, ‘M’ and ‘L’ do not include ‘Q’.)

If all of the secondary details had agreed perfectly, that would have been evidence of collusion and fraud!

Such differences in secondary details in fact confirm the traditions, and thus help to confirm the core historical facts: that Christ was crucified, he was buried, he rose from the dead on the third day, and thereafter he was seen alive by many people at various times over the next few months, up to 500 at one time, and he ate with them, and he showed them “by many convincing proofs” that he was alive from the dead.

On and on, the evidence continually reinforces: Christ actually convinced hundreds of eyewitnesses that he had conquered death— and after they saw him crucified! Is there any other man in human history who can boast of such evidence—and to such radical claims?

As we explore the evidence for the Crucifixion and the Resurrection in more detail, we should also keep in mind that evidence for the Resurrection must necessarily also be evidence that Christ’s claims were true—including his claim to Deity—and this gives us an unsurpassable assurance of his love.

Has any other man demonstrated such love, and such proof, as Jesus? Could you ever ask another man to do more?

In Jesus’ own words: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

2) THE FACT OF THE CRUCIFIXION (WHICH ISLAM DENIES) AND SUBSEQUENT RESURRECTION

Mark devotes roughly half his narrative to the events leading up to and including one week’s period of time and culminating in Christ’s death and resurrection.

And amazingly, there appears to be a vast amount of historical evidence for the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, evidence which must be wholesale discounted if one wishes to become a Muslim, since those events are denied by Islam.

Let’s explore a little of that evidence…

A. HIS TRIAL

Jesus was put to death for his Messianic claims. Consider this passage from Matthew:

“And the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?’ Jesus said, ‘I AM. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be worthy of death.” (Matt. 26)

In this one, simple exchange, many different Messianic attributes are confirmed under oath:
—“Are you the Messiah?” Jesus testifies that he is the Messiah.
—“The Son of God?” Jesus testifies that he is the Son of God.
— “I AM” Jesus testifies that he is GOD HIMSELF. (I AM is the “tetragrammaton” or the “unspeakable name of God” spelled YHWH, pronounced “Yah-way” in the book of Exodus. Moses asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God answers, “Tell them I AM is my name. Tell them that I AM sent you.”)
— “The Son of Man” A reference to the prophecy in Daniel that speaks of the “Son of Man…who will set up an everlasting kingdom….” Jesus testifies that he is that individual.

MOTIVE!
All of this speaks to why Jesus Christ was put to death! We know why Julius Caesar was put to death, and we know why Joan of Arc was put to death—and we also know why Jesus Christ was put to death.

Jesus Christ was popular with the people. He was openly preaching against the religious establishment, calling them hypocrites and worse. He was teaching in their Temple (or as he called it, “My Father’s House”). He was overturning their money changers, and performing great miracles in the eyes of the people, people who now followed him in great crowds, calling him a prophet—crowds who were calling out “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

The Jewish authorities must have been offended by Jesus. Notice how he constantly challenges their authority and even makes himself “the Lord of the Sabbath”:

(Matthew 12:) 1 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’[a] you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. 15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large multitude followed after him, and he healed them all.

MESSIANIC CLAIMS

This rabble-rouser, this threat, this “King of the Jews”—as Pilate would soon mockingly call him—this Jesus now openly claims in court, under oath, to the High Priest and the Pharisees, people whom he surely knows want to have him put to death, he claims that he has aspirations to the very throne of God’s everlasting kingdom!

He made it clear to them, you see: He is the long-awaited Son of David! He is the prophesied one, promised to Eve, and to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (As Jesus claimed elsewhere in the gospels: “‘Truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.’ And they all took up stones to kill Him…”)

Do you see this radical claim that Jesus has now made—though he had always refused to answer this question in the past? Now on the eve of Passover, as the Passover Lambs are being examined by the elders, Jesus stands before these religious leaders, these “whitewashed tombs full of dead bones”, these men who have just committed bribery in order to have him arrested and beaten, these men who have previously, unwittingly, generated many of his famous teachings through their inept and embarrassing attempts to trick him in a religious argument, now Jesus brazenly tells these men that He is the one that Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Daniel and all the other prophets warned them about. He is the Anointed One, sent from God!

You see, they would someday all bow before Him! He was their Eternal King! This is what Jesus is saying to these men. They must have been greatly offended! Imagine some street preacher doing that today, pointing his finger straight in the nose of the religious establishment? How about in the Middle East of today? Imagine, especially, how such a man might fare under the religious establishments we see today in Islamic societies, such as those in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan?

We certainly know what the religious establishment of the Jews of the early first century did in such circumstances. They understood Jesus’ claim so clearly that “the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be worthy of death.” (Matt 26) As he was crucified, they taunted him, “He trusted in God… for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matt. 27:43)

Christ was crucified for his Messianic claims, as also evidenced by Pilate’s inscription on the Cross: “The King of the Jews”, (an incidental and unnecessary detail revealing the petty politics involved: showing the Jews’ accusation that Christ was a pretender to the throne in an insulting way that no Jew would invent; Pilate using Jesus’ ‘crime’ as a way to mock all Jews, and as a demonstration of Roman power—he showed them just what happens to Jewish kings under the rule of Rome.)

Many kings throughout history have set themselves up as God… but an executed man? A man not only (apparently) devoid of any kingdom, but executed no less? The condemned are not today considered in high regard, nor were they in days of old, much less are they considered to be pretenders to the throne of God Himself!

DASHED HOPES
Christ’s death dashed the hopes of all of his disciples. They, too, were expecting a conquering king to come and set them free from Rome, and set up his everlasting kingdom. They even jockeyed for position to share power with Christ, not realizing the full impact of what they were asking even when Christ plainly told them on multiple occasions of his impending execution.

This exchange is instructive, from Mark chapter 10:

They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus was going in front of them... He again took the twelve, and began to tell them the things that were going to happen to him.

"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death, and will deliver him to the Gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again."

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came near to him, saying, "Teacher, we want you to do for us what we will ask."

He said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?"

They said to him, "Grant to us that we may sit, one at your right hand, and one at your left hand, in your glory."

But Jesus said to them, "You don't know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"

They said to him, "We are able." Jesus said to them, "You shall indeed drink the cup that I drink, and you shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit at my right hand and at my left hand is not mine to give, but for whom it has been prepared."

When the ten heard it, they began to be indignant towards James and John.

When Christ was taken prisoner, tried, and executed, his disciples scattered like rats. Their dreams were destroyed. Their lives of the past few years had apparently been a waste. How could this have happened, given the great miracles that they had all witnessed?

And how, given this mental state, did these same men then later go on to write the New Testament, and thus bequeath to us, through their own tortured deaths, the character of Christ for the ages?

B. HIS DEATH — JEWISH, GREEK, AND ROMAN SOURCES

The Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (c. A.D. 55-120) wrote: “But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also.”

Not only does Tacitus confirm the important facts of Christ’s death, but he also alludes to the resurrection, with his talk of a “pernicious superstition” breaking out precisely in the place “where the mischief originated.”

Phlegon wrote in his ‘Chronicles’: “During the time of Tiberius Caesar, an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon.”

Thallus also wrote of this darkness and tried to explain it away (unsuccessfully) as an eclipse of the sun. His position was refuted by Africanus:

Julius Africanus (Roman source), in A.D. 221, refers to the histories of Thallus (c A.D. 52) in reference to the darkness that enveloped the land during the late afternoon hours when Jesus died on the cross: “Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun—unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Pashal full moon that Christ died).” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1)

Africanus is, of course, correct that it is impossible for an eclipse of the sun to occur during a full moon, since during that time, the two celestial bodies lie completely opposite one another, relative to the position of the earth.

Christ’s examination and death coincided with the Jewish ritual examination and killing of the Passover lamb. (The religious feast was instituted by God himself, to commemorate the night when he instructed Moses to have the people kill a spotless lamb or goat and mark their door with its blood, so that the angel of death would pass over their house. On that night, the story says, all the firstborn of Egypt were killed and Pharaoh finally relented, freeing the Hebrews from slavery so that Moses could lead them to the Promised Land.)

Babylonian Talmud (Jewish source): “It has been taught: On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu. And an announcer went out, in front of him, for forty days (saying): ‘He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel away. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.’ But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover.” Another version of this text says, “Yeshu the Nazarene.”

"Yeshu" is used, instead of "Yeshua" (Joshua, Christ's actual first name). This derogatory epithet is an acronym "Ye.sh.u." which stands for "may his name and memory be blotted out." (In the end, however, this passage in the Talmud provided historical evidence for the date of the crucifixion, as well as support for Jesus' performing miracles, and for his resulting ability to draw large crowds.)

Lucian of Samasota (Greek satirist, 2nd century): “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith…”

Lucian’s mocking humor now serves as historical evidence of what Christians were really like, and what they believed, in the 2nd century.

It prompts the question: How on earth did thousands of people in Jerusalem suddenly end up worshipping a man who was executed there in shame? Such a thing is surely unprecedented!

C. HIS EXECUTION

“After having Jesus scourged, [Pilate] delivered Him over to be crucified. And the soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort. And they dressed Him up in purple, and after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting at Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him.”

The sufferings of crucifixion, from Frederick Farraf: “For indeed a death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, shame, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness…”

Some Muslims, in denial of the Crucifixion (as Islam requires), have argued that another man was substituted for Jesus on the Cross. But would not such a one have cried out, “You’ve got the wrong man!”?

Jesus’ spear-pierced side was also not insignificant. (Imagine for one moment, being stabbed in the chest.)

Michael Green writes: “We are told on eyewitness authority that ‘blood and water’ came out of the pierced side of Jesus. The eyewitness clearly attached great importance to this. Had Jesus been alive when the spear pierced His side, strong spouts of blood would have emerged with every heartbeat. Instead, the observer noticed [blood] seeping out, distinct and separate from the accompanying watery serum. This…is exceptionally strong medical proof of death. It is all the more impressive because the evangelist could not possibly have realized its significance to a pathologist…Jesus was already dead.”

William D. Edwards, M.D. (Journal of American Medical Association): “Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death. Accordingly, the interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”

E.H. Day: “It is St. Mark who lays stress upon Pilate’s wonder at hearing that Christ was already dead, and upon his personal questioning of the centurion before he would give leave for the removal of the body from the Cross. The Roman soldiers were not unfamiliar with the evidences of death, or with the sight of death following upon crucifixion.”

Green remarks: “Four executioners came to examine him, before a friend, Joseph of Arimathea, was allowed to take the body away for burial.”

D. HIS BURIAL

Wilbur Smith: “We know more about the burial of the Lord Jesus than we know of the burial of any single character in all of ancient history. We know infinitely more about His burial than we do the burial of any Old Testament character, of any king of Babylon, Pharaoh of Egypt, any philosopher of Greece, or triumphant Caesar. We know who took His body from the cross; we know something of the wrapping of the body in spices, and burial clothes; we know the very tomb in which this body was placed, the name of the man who owned it…We know even where this tomb was located, in a garden nigh to the place where he was crucified, outside the city walls…”

And yet Paul remains in his tomb, and Peter, and Ezekiel, and the Patriarchs, and indeed Muhammad also, but on the site of Christ’s burial lies a church, built over an empty tomb.

The burial story is among the best-attested, historically, in the entire Bible. Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who buried Jesus in honor, was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish body that condemned Jesus), and is named in all four Gospels.

Why name a specific person, a well-known person, if the story is made up? It would be easier to say, “A wealthy man took him away for burial.” And why invent a Pharisee, of all people, to be the one who finally shows Jesus the honor that He is due? This also meets the criteria of embarrassment—early Christians were unlikely to have recorded a Pharisee doing such a thing, unless it were true.

The Gospels preserve accounts of Christ’s burial preparations. The women who watched while Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared and entombed Jesus’ body. They had “followed after, and they observed the tomb” (Luke 23:55) and were “sitting opposite the tomb” (Matt. 27:61) and they “observed where He was laid.” (Mark 15:47) “When Joseph had taken the body…and laid it in his new tomb” (Matt 27:59,60), “which had been hewn out of the rock” (Mark 15:46), “where no one had ever laid before” (Luke 23:53), which was located “in the place where He was crucified…in the garden” (John 19:41)

Henry Alford, Greek scholar states that the reason Joseph laid the body in the tomb he chose, his own, was “that it was near” to the place of crucifixion. Everyone knew where it was.

THE GUARD PLACED AT THE TOMB. Professor Albert Roper in his book, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”, wrote: “The Roman seal affixed to the stone before Joseph’s tomb was far more sacred to them than all the philosophy of Israel or the sanctity of her ancient creed. Soldiers cold-blooded enough to gamble over a dying victim’s cloak are not the kind of men to be hoodwinked by timid Galileans or to jeopardize their Roman necks by sleeping on their post.”

Polemical arguments play in here. Such as: Why did the Jews ask Pilate to place a guard at Christ’s tomb, if no such sepulcher existed? Why did stories emerge attempting to explain what happened to the guards, and how the body was stolen, followed by responses in Christian polemic that the guards were bribed, and so on. None of these polemics would have emerged if Christ had not died, if he had not been buried, and if his body had not gone missing shortly thereafter.

Mental state of the disciples: THEY ALL FORSOOK HIM AND FLED. Any Jewish rebellion in the past had been quickly extinguished by Rome with the execution of its leader. The disciples did not have a concept of an executed Messiah. The Jewish expectation—and their hope—was a military Messiah who would lead them to freedom from Rome and usher in his kingdom on earth, not one who would be executed in shame and torture. In their mind, Jesus had failed, and they were broken and filled with fear for their own lives.

A SIDE NOTE ON POLEMICS:

Jesus’ enemies grumble that he performs miracles through the power of the devil. Jesus retorts, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

What happens is, the back-and-forth of this argument becomes recorded. And the fact that the argument even occurred demonstrates; it’s very telling to see what someone’s enemies are arguing, and how this results in responses that could not have arisen on their own.

For example, Jesus did not just say, “A house divided cannot stand” out of the blue. He said it in response to an accusation that he was in league with the devil—an accusation that Jesus is very unlikely to have made about himself! Nor would early Christians have made such a thing up. So then, where did it come from? (This is why polemics are important to historians.)

And why would Christ’s enemies have accused him of performing miracles with the power of the devil unless that was their response to something miraculous? Why didn’t the polemic simply record them saying, “He has no real power, he has never really raised a dead person or healed a blind or lame person, that's ridiculous.” ...followed by Christian arguments that he really does have power? But those are simply not the arguments that were recorded, even by his enemies. Why not?

Similarly the Jewish polemic doesn’t record that the body was produced from under guard (and so at once put to rest this ridiculous notion.) Instead it records stories trying to explain what happened to the body. Why were they making such arguments unless the body really did go missing? Why did stories arise protecting the lives of the guards?

E. THE EMPTY TOMB

There are many convincing arguments that the tomb really was found empty. Including:

1. The fact that the gospels record the empty tomb being discovered by women. It is very unlikely that any hoax from 1st century Judea would ever have invented such a story, and then used women as the primary witnesses. (“Well you see, some women discovered that this condemned man has risen from the dead…”) Women were not even allowed to testify in court in that time and culture. But the fact remains that the Gospels record the women being the discoverers of the good news, who were also used to teach the resurrection to the apostles. Therefore the stories, already multiply-attested, also meet the criteria of embarrassment.

2. The burial story. (The fact that everyone knew where the tomb was, combined with the fact that the burial story is so well-attested—i.e. that the burial itself must have actually happened—provides strong evidence that the tomb, therefore, must have also actually been found empty.) Vis-à-vis:

3. The fact that the Jewish authorities would have produced the body if they could have, and they had every incentive to do so—yet instead, their polemic is filled with stories to try to explain why the body was missing.

4. The fact that the entire city was in an uproar and the Christian church came into existence, when Jerusalem should have been the easiest city in the world in which to put to rest a “mischievous superstition” such as the resurrection—since Jerusalem is where the execution and burial actually took place.

Clearly the body did go missing, which leads to the next question:

F. WHO STOLE THE BODY?

1) The Romans? This doesn’t make sense. First of all, the Romans crucified him. Second, the Roman interest was to keep the peace—which was also Pilate’s only motive for crucifying Christ in the first place, whom he apparently believed to be otherwise innocent. The Romans would have had the same motivation to produce the body as the Jews, when the Christian church exploded into existence.

2) The Jewish Authorities? No, they were the ones who requested the guard from Pilate, in order to prevent such an occurrence. Why would they hide the body? Their motivation was the opposite. They would have been the first to produce the body. Especially as the early church exploded in Jerusalem, they had every interest to put a stop to it.

3) Grave robbers? In which case, why would grave robbers take a worthless body, never to be produced again, but leave behind the grave-clothes, neatly folded and containing over a hundred pounds of valuable burial spices? And how did they get past the guards?

4) The disciples? Let’s say that the disciples stole the body. In which case, how did they get past the guards? Furthermore, what was their motivation? Before the death of Christ, the disciples didn’t understand his claims that he would rise again (which makes them look stupid—criteria of embarrassment—though in fairness it must be said that culturally, they had not been expecting a suffering Messiah. Who would?) And after his death, they were demoralized and in hiding. Peter denied Christ to a handmaiden, out of fear. (Criteria of embarrassment—strong evidence for authenticity.) They also had a lot of trouble coming around to belief in the resurrection (Doubting Thomas.) They definitely didn’t understand the resurrection at first, which again meets the criteria of embarrassment. They looked like fools the whole way through.

And most importantly: If the disciples stole the body, that means they knew that the resurrection was a lie. So why would they all die for a lie? If they knew it was a lie? Would you?
Many people will willingly die for something that they believe to be true. Even Jihadists willingly die for something they believe to be true. But no one will willingly die for something that he knows for a fact to be false! Would you?

Yet nearly all of the apostles eventually suffered horrible deaths for their beliefs — but not before first establishing the early church, and working miracles of their own that were documented, just as Christ’s miracles were documented. This was all just a deception? Perpetrated on history for no personal gain, and with every incentive in the opposite direction? Could you name twelve men who would suffer the same for a deception? That’s the ultimate rigged jury!

Blaise Pascal gives a simple, psychologically sound proof for why it is unthinkable that the disciples would devise such a deception:

"The apostles were either deceived or deceivers. Either supposition is difficult, for it is not possible to imagine that a man has risen from the dead. While Jesus was with them, he could sustain them; but afterwards, if he did not appear to them, who did make them act? The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus' death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost. Follow that out." (Pascal, Pensees 322, 310)

G. THE "SWOON" THEORY

Maybe the body wasn’t stolen. Maybe Christ was really still alive, and then he snuck off? No, because the evidence is quite good that he was actually dead. First, he was lashed and crucified. Even with the best medical care, he would be very fortunate to survive. Second, the guards chose not to break Jesus’ legs, which is evidence that those men, professionals in death, honestly believed that Jesus was dead. Third, Pilate was surprised at reports that Jesus was “already dead” and therefore Pilate requested the guards to make sure he was dead, and they stabbed him with a spear through the heart.

We know that the spear went into his heart, because modern medicine teaches us that the eyewitness report of “blood and water” coming from the spear wound would only have occurred in such a case, and only after death.

We also know that his body was wrapped in a hundred pounds of spices and a burial cloth, and he was in a cold tomb for several days, with a giant rock rolled in front of the entrance, and a Guard (16 soldiers) outside the tomb. (And remember, the burial accounts are historically very well-attested.)

The thought that, in his injured condition, Jesus was able to live for several days and then get up and roll away the rock and escape from the soldiers is absolutely ludicrous. And even if that was the case, how would he, in that condition, have then appeared before the disciples and convinced them that he had “conquered death” ?

He could not have; such an argument is ridiculous.

H. THE RESURRECTION APPEARANCES

There is also the issue of the Resurrection appearances. Even the most liberal New Testament scholars agree that the early disciples must have had some sort of “experiences” where they honestly believed that they had seen the risen Christ. The only question is how those experiences occurred, whether they were mass hallucinations or something else.

Those experiences must have been pretty convincing. Remember, the disciples originally “forsook him and fled” when Christ was arrested, and before Christ’s scourging and crucifixion, the boldest disciple Peter even cursed and swore to deny Christ before a serving maid as he cowered in fear that he might face a similar fate.

Yet after the resurrection appearances, the disciples were emboldened. The book of Acts records them charging into the Temple and pointing their fingers in the face of the same high priest who condemned Christ, accusing that high priest and the other Jewish leaders of deicide, and then publicly performing miraculous healings, in the name of Jesus, right there for all to see! (One example being a man who, lame from birth, had sat begging every day at the Temple for 40 years.)

Then the majority of the disciples eventually went on to die horrible deaths of their own, as a result of their proclamations of the resurrection of Christ. Why? If they knew such a claim to be false? Can you explain it?

I. NON-BIBLICAL SOURCES CONFIRM

Most of the basic historical facts of Jesus’ life can be established outside of the Bible, using other ancient sources. And facts established by the New Testament itself, are established by the same historical principles.

History shows:

1) Jesus Christ was a man who lived in Judea in the early first century.

2) He was famous for being a miracle worker and he drew large crowds.

3) He introduced sublime moral teachings and lofty ideals, which would later cause him to become the most influential man in all of human history.

4) He was condemned to death by Pilate and executed during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, on the eve of Passover. (The execution for sedition providing good evidence of his Messianic claims, and being consistent with his claims to deity.)

5) Soon after his death, many people worshipped him as God.

6) Shortly after his death, his tomb was discovered empty and polemics arose, trying to account for the missing body. All authorities had an interest in producing the body but were unable to.

7) Many people claimed to have seen him alive, and his disciples went on to horrible deaths based on this belief.

8) Soon after his death, in the same city where he was executed, many more people believed the “pernicious superstition” that he was risen from the dead, and a new world religion came into being as a result.

9) Within a few hundred years, the Roman emperor and the empire itself turned Christian. Christendom itself grew, as Christ predicted, from a tiny mustard seed, into a tree so great “that the birds of the air [demons] perched on its branches.”

10) Today the world marks its calendar from his birth. Jesus of Nazareth is the only man in history to successfully convince billions of people that he really is God.

You can entirely ignore the Bible, and still piece together the basic historical facts from Roman, Greek, and Jewish sources.

Such an amazing course of events to result from the life of a simple carpenter who never wrote a book, and who was executed in shame! How in the world did billions of people end up worshipping an executed man?

E.M. Blailock, professor of classics at Auckland University: “I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history…”

3) THE DEITY OF CHRIST

A. HIS CLAIMS TO DEITY

“Jesus answered,… ‘I and My Father are one.’ Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’ The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’” John 10: 25-33

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1

“Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:58

In Matthew 22, Christ describes himself as the 'Lord':
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?"

“The son of David,” they replied.

He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

"‘The Lord said to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet."'
If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?" No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Christ also described himself as the subject of Old Testament prophecies. He referred to one event as “prophecy being fulfilled before your eyes.”

In Isaiah 35, for example, God comes to save and redeem his people. In this context we find the following promise: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy" (Isa 35:5-6). The fact that these things were happening in the ministry of Jesus proved the presence of the Savior. Jesus himself said this when he was asked by the disciples of John the Baptist whether he (Jesus) was the one through whom the kingdom was coming. Jesus said, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them" (Matt 11:4-5). In other words, "Because the healings promised in Isaiah are happening in my ministry, yes, I am the one through whom God's kingdom has come."

The people “were amazed at him because he taught with authority.” In the book of Matthew, in the Expounding of the Law, Christ doesn’t need to bother with the usual “Thus saith the Lord” of the Old Testament prophets. “You have heard ‘Thus saith the Lord’” says Jesus, “But I say to you…” Thus Jesus teaches his own words as the true final word on Scripture, in His own name.

He even claimed: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away.” Who can make such claims? (Further: who can make such claims while still appearing the perfect model of humility?)

Two thousand years have passed, and so far there is indeed no indication that His words ever will pass away.

B. HIS FORGIVENESS OF SINS

Those who argue that Jesus only made claims to deity in the book of John need to pay closer attention to passages like this which appear throughout all four Gospels:

“[Jesus] said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’ But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone? Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins-’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:5-12)

Notice how the teachings are intertwined with the miracle itself? And how they intertwine with the polemic, in fact arising directly from the debate itself, and in front of a crowd full of witnesses? In this story, the crippled man even had to be lowered from the ceiling because the crowd around Christ was so large.

As common as “First-century healers in Palestine” may have been, at least according to various articles in the secular media that tend to crop up during the holiday season, apparently Christ was the only one who was so well-documented by his many witnesses. No other healers have stories like this!

C. HIS ACCEPTANCE OF WORSHIP

“And behold, a leper came and worshipped Him.” Matt 8:2

The disciples “worshipped him, saying: ‘Of a truth you are the Son of God’” (Matt. 14:33)

“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (John 20:27-29)

I find it noteworthy, by the way, that as much as Jesus apparently deserved worship, he never demanded it. Perhaps this is another clue for differentiating between true incarnations of God, and false ones!

As Paul wrote, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mind as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but rather made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Surely history testifies that Jesus Christ has obtained a name above every other name? But Paul wrote those words two thousand years ago—how could he have known that such a thing would come to pass?

Christ told people that their eternal destiny depended solely on their trust in him, and that he would be the one to judge the world at the time of the end. He made the sort of ludicrous claims to be God that no other founder of a world religion ever made. And he repeatedly staked this claim upon the credentials of his miracles, especially his resurrection. What other man can make such claims?

D. HIS TRIAL

Christian apologetics’ extraordinaire Josh McDowell once pointed out, “Jesus not only predicted His resurrection, but also emphasized that His rising from the dead would be the ‘sign’ to authenticate His claims to be the Messiah.”

In Luke 22:37 Jesus connects himself to the prophecy of crucifixion in Isaiah 53: “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; [Isaiah 53] and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

Remember from above:

“And the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?’ Jesus said, ‘I AM. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be worthy of death.”

In this one, simple exchange, many different messianic attributes are confirmed:
—“Are you the Messiah?” Jesus testifies that he is the Messiah.
—“The Son of God?” Jesus testifies that he is the Son of God.
— “I AM” Jesus testifies that he is GOD HIMSELF. (I AM is the “tetragrammaton” or the “unspeakable name of God.”)
— “The Son of Man” A reference to the prophecy in Daniel that speaks of the “Son of Man” who will set up an everlasting kingdom. Jesus testifies that he is that individual.

They understood his claim so clearly that they executed him. As he was crucified, they taunted him, “He trusted in God… for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matt. 27:43)

Thus Christ was crucified for his Messianic claims, as evidenced by Pilate’s inscription on the Cross: “The King of the Jews”.

THUS: all the evidence we have thus far considered for Christ’s conviction, execution, and burial also serves to corroborate that Jesus actually made Messianic claims! Why else would he have been put to death? All the historical evidence points towards his Messianic claims, in open court, as sealing his own fate.

E. HIS MESSIANIC CLAIMS, CONTRASTED WITH HIS SUBLIME TEACHINGS AND MORAL CHARACTER

Christ a blasphemer?

Now here is the problem: If we know that the Scriptures have come down to us intact, and we do, and we know that Jesus claimed to be God, which he did, then we are forced to confront C.S. Lewis’ famous “trilemma” which states that Christ must either be God, or a lunatic, or a liar and a fool.

You are not allowed the option of “great teacher,” since Christ has not left this option open to you! Nor can you later create any future religion that includes Christ as merely a “prophet” of God (as Islam tries to do.)

We are left with only three possible choices:

1. If we accept that Christ was telling the truth, then we have accepted his deity.

2. If Christ was lying, then he knew his claims were false, and that would make him evil and manipulative—a charismatic leader with followers giving over the destiny of their eternal souls based on their trust in him. And also, if Jesus knew his claims were false, that would make him a fool, since he died a horrible death based on his claim to be God. We all know liars and fools. Do they remind you of Christ?

3. The only other alternative is that Christ was crazy. In other words, he wasn’t lying; he really believed his claims, but he was just crazy. In fact, a total lunatic. Narcissistic, delusional, psychotic, or whatever. But we can see, and mental health experts have affirmed, that his mental health was clearly superb as evidenced by the gospels. (That is a subject for a separate email.)

So the problem is simple: How can we reconcile the soaring character of Christ, who introduced to the world the highest moral teaching it has ever known, with the idea of a lying, evil manipulator, or a fool, or a crazy lunatic? His claim to be God makes it very difficult to talk about Jesus as merely a “great moral teacher”. As C.S. Lewis said, Christ has not left that option open to us.

It also strains credulity to think that the group of disciples who are recorded as uneducated, hungry for glory and power (the brothers Zebedee), bumbling fools, fearful, weak, lacking faith (Thomas), lacking understanding (Peter), even traitorous in the case of Judas, and in a case of Paul, as a Pharisee who had persecuted God’s church, yet these were the same group of men (not counting Judas of course) who wrote the New Testament, and thus, much of Western Civilization. Is it possible for a work to be so much greater than its author? Could the disciples have invented a Jesus Christ? Could they have devised such a character who has so transformed the world?

Islam claims that the beautiful poetry of the Koran is in itself a miracle to validate its inspiration from Allah. Cannot Jesus’ words also meet the same test? Who is not moved when they read the lilies of the field? And who can deny the positive impact of Christ upon the history of man?

No other founder of a world religion has ever claimed to be God, and no other man in history has convinced a large portion of the world that he really is God. And how did Christ convince them? (1) His miracles (2) His resurrection (3) His higher teachings; his words. (4) His character and example.

The historical evidence is clear that certain sayings of Christ (at the very least) are his legitimate words, including the Sermon on the Mount. So then, we are confronted with the same question that Jesus himself asked:

"Who do you say that I am?"

F. CHRIST’S SINLESS NATURE

1. Jesus’ view of himself.

”I always do those things that please Him.”

“Which of you convicts Me of sin?”

John Stott: “It is clear that Jesus believed Himself to be sinless, as He believed Himself to be the Messiah and the Son of God.”

2. The Witness of His Friends.

1 Peter 2:22: “who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth.”

1 John 3:5: “in Him there is no sin.”

3. The Witness of His Enemies

Judas: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

In Luke 23:41, one thief rebukes another: “This Man has done nothing wrong.”

Pilate: “…Having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man…what evil has he done? I have found no reason for death in Him” (Luke 23)

The Roman centurion standing by the cross: “Certainly this man was innocent.”

Jesus’ enemies frequently brought accusations against him during his ministry, but they never succeed in making their case. Many of Jesus’ famous teachings resulted from his on-the-spot answers to these occurrences. Mark records four such instances in Mark 2:1—3:6.

4. The Witness of the Surviving Documents (the Gospels)

One day, an expert in the law sought to trap Jesus, asking him what the greatest commandment was. Jesus replied: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40).

The Gospels indeed record a vivid portrait of a man who loves God with all his heart, and who loves his fellow man as himself. Can any other man from history claim such documentary evidence, of actually and completely fulfilling the Moral Law, as Christ can? And is not the Ritual Law of the Old Testament also fulfilled perfectly in type by Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection? And did not Christ confirm the Old Testament by constantly quoting it and confirming its truth and historicity over and over again, and by living a life in fulfillment of hundreds of its prophecies? Indeed, certain sections of the Old Testament are quite spectacular prophesies of Christ, but that must be the subject for another email.

G. CHRIST’S EXAMPLE

Jesus taught, “Greater love hath no man that he would lay down his life to save his friends.”

Christ sets the bar quite high! Would you be willing to die for your friends?

Yet in his own example, Jesus went even further, and laid down his life for his enemies. As they nailed him to the cross, he said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Surely one is at a loss when searching history for a greater example of love than Jesus Christ!

Christ must have been confident in this, since he used Himself as the standard for his “New Commandment”, when He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Historian William Lecky (a skeptic) states, “He [Jesus]…has been not only the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice.”

How many great men would instantly be perceived as egomaniacal if they presumed to give people “a New Commandment” from God? And how many would dare to set themselves up as the great, new, moral standard by which that commandment must be carried out? Yet somehow such words seem normal to us, and reasonable, when coming from Jesus of Nazareth. How is that?

At a young age some children think of Jesus Christ and the President of the United States (and Superman) in comparable terms. But how much higher is Christ, actually, than any President of the United States? How much of a fool would any President instantly appear to be if he dared compare himself to Christ? Indeed, Presidents bow their heads and pray to Christ. (Whether they actually believe in Christ or not.)

However it happened, Jesus does appear to have gained “a name above every other name”, as the early Christian writings prophesied would occur. Can you imagine this happening with any of the condemned men on death row today?

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Christ’s Credentials

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know." (Acts 2:22)

— The Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. (The statistical chances of those occurring in any person’s life are infinitesimally small.)

— The testimony of John the Baptist. (The forerunner prophet. See writings of Josephus for more evidence on John the Baptist.)

— The prophecies made by Christ himself. (Such as the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.)

— His miracles. Healing miracles, nature miracles, raising people from the dead, etc. (Muhammad never raised anyone from the dead—including himself.) Jesus’ miracles are intertwined with his teachings, and intertwined with polemics. The historical evidence here requires a separate email or library of books.

— Jesus’ sublime teachings, with his sayings preserved for us, in parable form, as the Old Testament foretold they would be.

— Jesus’ incomparable moral example.

— His apparently blasphemous claims to deity, contrasted with his well-attested character.

— His willingness to die based on his courtroom claim to deity.

— The testimony of his friends, many of whom went on to horrible deaths based on their claim of Christ’s deity.

— His resurrection. The extraordinary evidence for this, including the burial story, the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, the emergence of separate traditions with multiple attestation of the core historical events, the emergence of the church in Jerusalem, the polemics that resulted, the change of heart in the disciples, their willingness to go to their deaths for the faith, and on and on.

— The examination of Christ by, and subsequent conversion of, skeptics such as “Doubting” Thomas and James (Jesus’ brother who did not follow or believe until after the Resurrection.)

— The testimonies of, and miracles performed by, the Apostles.

— The miraculous conversion of Paul. Entirely separate article.

— Certain named Pharisees were also his followers including Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

— The origin of the early church. Normally, such movements are put to death with their leader. But instead the church flourished in the very city where Christ died.

— The evidence that Christ drew large crowds during his ministry provides weight to the proposition that he actually performed miracles. For the same reason, the explosion into existence of the early church provides weight to the proposition that Christ actually rose from the dead.

Christ’s incredible impact on world history:

There is no disagreement that Christ was the most influential person who ever lived. You can trace from his influence to the origins of the universities, homeless shelters, the Red Cross, the philosophy that man is sinful, which led us to divided powers in government, and so on.

Consider modern science, which only could have arisen from a worldview that there is order and harmony in the universe and that it operates by consistent laws. (Laws made by a rational God.) Modern science was largely developed by devout Christians like Isaac Newton and Rene Descartes, whose legacy to us is the scientific method. The other philosophies of man are largely rooted either in fatalism (everything is fatalistically determined) or in illusion (that the physical world is an illusion). Science could not have arisen from these worldviews.

Christianity on the other hand, is based on the notion that there exists a rational God who is the source of rational truth. This gave rise to the possibility of scientific laws. (“If ye seek, ye shall find.”) Evidence for this view is that nearly all the founders of modern science were Christians. These include men such as Keppler, Boyle, Pascal, Pasteur, etc. Many great scientific achievements have also been made, and disproportionately so, by Jews. Modern science and medicine were precisely the blessings that missionaries brought with them to native tribes all over the earth. Why wasn’t it the other way around, with some advanced civilization finding us and teaching us the truth? Instead, it was the Judeo-Christian civilization that, at least for a time, has gained the “blessings of liberty” and became the awe of the whole earth. (Unfortunately, that civilization is now in decline, as it falls away from its heritage.)

MOVEMENTS FOR GOOD

From the beginning of Judaism, from which Christianity is derived, there was an emphasis on the written word. But the phenomenon of education for the masses has its roots in the Protestant Reformation. In order to promote Bible literacy, Christians have been leaders in education. This trend was accelerated with the advent of the printing press at about the same time as the Protestant Reformation. Many of the world's languages were first set to writing by Christian missionaries in order for people to read the Bible.

For the first 200 years in America, children's reading texts emphasized biblical literacy. The emphasis on literacy was so intense in colonial America, that John Quincy Adams said in the early 1800's that the illiteracy rate was only 4/10th of 1 percent. By comparison, it has been estimated that in America today, 40 million people are functionally illiterate. (And FYI, 43 million are on food stamps.)

All but one of the first 123 colleges in colonial America were Christian institutions. While these universities have lost their Christian identities, it is interesting to read the founding statements of these schools. Harvard, for example, was founded on this statement: “Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.” (John 17:3)

As well as various Christian movements for good, such as:

* Ending cannibalism. Missionary followers of Jesus are credited with stopping cannibalism in many primitive societies.

* Ending gladiator matches. A 5th century monk, Telemachus is credited as being the pivotal force ending the gladiator spectacles.

* Curing diseases. The Western world, through hygiene based on cleanliness and through modern science, medicine, and technology, enjoys an apparent near-immunity to diseases, pestilences, famines, and natural disasters compared to how powerfully they devastate other parts of the world. We always see these things on TV, but it’s always some godforsaken place on the other side of the world. It’s worth mentioning that Jesus spent long hours in his own work healing the sick and diseased, drawing crowds, and then giving them his teachings. (“A large multitude followed after him, and he healed them all.” Matt. 12.)

* Ending slavery. (Which is still practiced in many different forms in some countries, and sometimes we still find it right under our noses.) Slavery was ended in great measure by Christian activists. For example, historians credit the British evangelical William Wilberforce as the primary force behind the ending of the international slave trade (which happened prior to the American Civil War). Two-thirds of the members of the American abolition society in 1835 were Christian ministers. John Adams, an American Founding Father, was instrumental in ending slavery in Massachusetts. Thomas Jefferson, often demonized for having slaves, presided over the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. But elsewhere? There are parts of the world that still practice slavery!

* The elevation of the status of women. In ancient cultures, a wife was the property of her husband. Aristotle said that a woman was somewhere between a free man and a slave. According to the book Reasons for God by Tim Keller (page 249), "It was extremely common in the Greco-Roman world to throw out new female infants to die from exposure, because of the low status of women in society. The church forbade its members to do so. Greco-Roman society saw no value in an unmarried woman, and therefore it was illegal for a widow to go more than two years without remarrying. But Christianity was the first religion to not force widows to marry. They were supported financially and honored within the community so that they were not under great pressure to remarry if they didn't want to. Pagan widows lost all control of their husband's estate when they remarried but the church allowed widows to maintain their husband's estate. Finally, Christians did not believe in cohabitiation. If a Christian man wanted to live with a woman he had to marry her, and this gave women far greater security. Also, the pagan double standard of allowing married men to have extramarital sex and mistresses was forbidden. In all these ways Christian women enjoyed far greater security and equality than did women in the surrounding culture. See Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity." In India, widows were voluntarily or involuntarily burned on their husbands' funeral pyres. Christian missionaries were a major influence in stopping these century-old practices and ideas.

* Ending infanticide. (Which has still not yet been entirely eradicated, even in Christian parts of the earth, in the case of abortion.)

* The Protestant Work Ethic.

* Political freedoms and human rights instead of tyranny. (More on this below…)

* The civil rights movement. (The Reverend Dr. Martin L. King, Jr and Gandhi were both influenced by Christ’s brand of non-violent resistance.)

* Charity. Kennedy and Newcombe in their book detail the rise of charity in the name of Jesus over the centuries. This is in stark contrast to history before Jesus. Historians record that prior to Jesus, the ancient world left little trace of any organized charitable effort. An important aspect to Jesus' ministry was his emphasis on helping the neediest and lowliest in society. For example, his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) is a classic illustration that is still part of our language today. While there are good charitable efforts outside of the name of Jesus, Kennedy and Newcombe argue that Christian charities stand out. They point to Mother Theresa, the Salvation Army, religious hospitals, and church supported soup kitchens and thrift shops in every community. Jesus has had such an enormous impact on charity that one wonders how different things would be if he had never been born.

Christians did these things. The list goes on and on…

It’s also sobering to consider that many of the evils we’ve eliminated or at least kept in check in the West are still very real in the rest of the world. What will happen in the Christian nations as they fall away from their heritage? Anyone can see the roads have potholes after a rain. Will today’s Western Man, having grown dull and fat amidst all his luxury, awake to find the Empire of the West has crumbled around him along with its culture?

"There has never been a free society without mores."
-Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
John Adams, President and Founding Father

INFLUENCE ON ART, LITERATURE, AND MUSIC

The influence of Jesus on our civilization’s art, music, and literature is enormous. For example, the Christian faith has influenced literature in Christian writers such as Dante, Chaucer, Donne, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Dickens, Milton, etc.

Had Jesus never been born, music would likely sound very different from what we're used to. There may never have developed the cantata, the concerto, or the symphony. Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach were Christians who worked to honor God with their work. Bach, for example, signed all his works with Soli Deo Gloria ("Solely to the glory of God").

Art has likewise been magnificently impacted by Jesus. While much modern art seems to debase the human spirit, classical Christian art tries to bring out the best of mankind--pointing us to a higher plane. This is certainly a tribute to Jesus.

NATURAL LAW AND THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY

Development of the Rule of Law, originating in the Law of Moses, which was spread throughout the western world by missionaries of Jesus Christ. The Biblical view that justice must be established, that favoritism could not be practiced, that two or three witnesses were necessary to establish guilt, that no man, including a king, was above the law, led to Natural law, which in practice grew as the English common law, leading to Magna Carta, the right of Habeas Corpus and the Jury, leading right up to the enshrining of human rights in the U.S. Constitution, leading to an explosion of innovation, wealth, and military power, unprecedented in human history. (And now in decline.)

While America's constitutional government is not specifically Christian (in the same way that many Islamic countries have a specifically Islamic government) it can still be argued that its roots are taken from biblical doctrines and that it arose in a Christian country from people with a Christian worldview. Here are just a few possible arguments in this regard:

    * America's first constitution was the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. The Puritan framers of this document required that each aspect of it be grounded in Scripture. Other constitutions to follow contained many similarities to this one.

    * At least 50 of the 55 signers of the U.S. Constitution were orthodox Christians.

    * There is no doubt that the concept of our Constitutional checks and balances system is a direct result of the biblical doctrine of the sinfulness of mankind. All of our founders understood the importance of this doctrine to the social order. In support of the division of powers into judicial, legislative, and executive branches, James Madison quoted the prophet Isaiah: “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King.”

    * America's foundational idea of The Rule of Law (being above the authority of man) traces back to the Old Testament, beginning with the Ten Commandments. Even in our modern civil code today, the enormous influence of Moses is evident.

    * The idea that all men are created equal, as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, is a biblical doctrine. (So it follows, logically, that one man does not have any inherent right to rule over another, and thus the powers are vested in the people, and delegated then to their public servants. "Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.")

    * The notion of the sovereign authority of God (as mentioned in the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, all 50 state constitutions, our currency, etc.)--rather than the sovereignty of the state--is certainly biblical.

    * The existence of moral absolutes (a biblical concept) is an important idea in our Declaration of Independence--specifically, self-evident truths and unalienable rights from the Creator.

    * Many other aspects of our laws come directly from the Bible--for example the judicial, legislative and executive branches trace to Isaiah 33:22. Fair trials with witnesses have numerous Old and New Testament support.

    * Regarding civil liberty, founding father John Adams (and others) emphasized 2 Corinthians 3:17 as the basis for American civil liberty. The slogan on the Liberty Bell is "Proclaim Liberty throughout the land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof" (Leviticus 15:10). Kennedy and Newcombe argue that Jesus himself was the greatest civil libertarian of all time.

During the writing of the Constitution of the United States, Ben Franklin wrote to George Washington:

Mr President [George Washington, Constitutional Convention],

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other--our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding.

We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?

In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. - Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered.

All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.

And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance?

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?

We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel:

We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.

And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move - that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service-

Benjamin Franklin - (United States Founding Father, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Signer of the Constitution.)

THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY

George Washington once wrote: “Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue?”

He also wrote: "It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors."
(Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789)

The blessings of liberty are derived directly from a culture’s striving to know the truth (which leads to science) and to do what is right (which leads to the law.) To whatever degree a people succeeds—or fails—in either endeavor, there is a direct and powerful impact on their economy, military security, and quality of life. As the Old Testament says: "Righteousness exalts a nation." (Proverbs 14:34)

It is important to examine the intellectual underpinnings of the West, which has indeed been so exalted on the global stage. A quote from Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” is instructive:

Life Is a Gift from God

We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life — physical, intellectual, and moral life.

But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.

Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

What Is Law?

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.

A Just and Enduring Government

If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable — whatever its political form might be.

Under such an administration, everyone would understand that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities of his existence. No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack. When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept of government.

It can be further stated that, thanks to the non-intervention of the state in private affairs, our wants and their satisfactions would develop themselves in a logical manner. We would not see poor families seeking literary instruction before they have bread. We would not see cities populated at the expense of rural districts, nor rural districts at the expense of cities. We would not see the great displacements of capital, labor, and population that are caused by legislative decisions.

The sources of our existence are made uncertain and precarious by these state-created displacements. And, furthermore, these acts burden the government with increased responsibilities.

(From The Law, by Frederic Bastiat)

Bastiat grew up in the West. Would the above political theory have been developed if his culture had not been steeped in words of Jesus Christ such as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

Our liberties are based on our cultural background in Natural Law. But other cultures do not necessarily have the same concepts. In China, by contrast, people are still snatched off the street and disappear into “Black Jails”—secret, illegal jails that are run by contractors at the behest of regional administrators, to get rid of “troublemakers” so that fewer complaints make their way back to the national bureaucrats. Such a thing seems horrifying to us because we grew up in a Christian (or post-Christian) culture, where a belief in the fundamental morality of human rights is a given. We are spoiled enough that we take our freedoms for granted, and we lose sight of what life can be like where the culture is different, in other parts of the world.

Don't other countries have access to the same political theories that we have here? What makes us think that we are so special, that we can ignore those truths without suffering the same consequences as in any other nation? Has America become so proud?

Also instructive are Thomas Paine’s words that so influenced the American Revolution (from another Western classic, COMMON SENSE). Paine argues against government by kings, which he shows to be a great evil in the eyes of the God of the Old Testament:

Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the
Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It was
the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the
promotion of idolatry. The Heathens paid divine honors to their
deceased kings, and the Christian world hath improved on the plan by
doing the same to their living ones.

How impious is the title of sacred majesty applied to a worm, who in
the midst of his splendor is crumbling into dust!

As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be
justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be
defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the
Almighty, as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly
disapproves of government by kings.

All anti-monarchial parts of scripture have been very smoothly
glossed over in monarchial governments, but they undoubtedly merit
the attention of countries which have their governments yet to form.
Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's is the scriptural
doctrine of courts, yet it is no support of monarchial government,
for the Jews at that time were without a king, and in a state of
vassalage to the Romans.

Near three thousand years passed away from the Mosaic account of the
creation, till the Jews under a national delusion requested a king.
Till then their form of government (except in extraordinary cases,
where the Almighty interposed) was a kind of republic administered
by a judge and the elders of the tribes. Kings they had none, and it
was held sinful to acknowledge any being under that title but the
Lords of Hosts.

And when a man seriously reflects on the idolatrous homage which is
paid to the persons of kings he need not wonder, that the Almighty,
ever jealous of his honor, should disapprove of a form of government
which so impiously invades the prerogative of heaven.
...
The children of Israel being oppressed by the Midianites, Gideon
marched against them with a small army, and victory, through the
divine interposition, decided in his favor. The Jews, elate with
success, and attributing it to the generalship of Gideon, proposed
making him a king, saying, "Rule thou over us, thou and thy son and
thy son's son."

Here was temptation in its fullest extent; not a kingdom only, but
an hereditary one, but Gideon in the piety of his soul replied, "I
will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you, THE LORD
SHALL RULE OVER YOU."

Words need not be more explicit; Gideon doth not decline the honor
but denies their right to give it; neither doth he compliment them
with invented declarations of his thanks, but in the positive style
of a prophet charges them with disaffection to their proper
sovereign, the King of Heaven.

About one hundred and thirty years after this, they fell again into
the same error. The hankering which the Jews had for the idolatrous
customs of the Heathens, is something exceedingly unaccountable; but
so it was, that laying hold of the misconduct of Samuel's two sons,
who were entrusted with some secular concerns, they came in an
abrupt and clamorous manner to Samuel, saying, "Behold thou art old
and thy sons walk not in thy ways, now make us a king to judge us
like all the other nations."

And here we cannot but observe that their motives were bad, viz.,
that they might be like unto other nations, i.e., the Heathen,
whereas their true glory laid in being as much unlike them as
possible. But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, give us a
king to judge us; and Samuel prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord said
unto Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say
to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me,
THEN I SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER THEM. According to all the works which
they have done since the day; wherewith they brought them up out of
Egypt, even unto this day; wherewith they have forsaken me and served
other Gods; so do they also unto you.

"Now therefore hearken unto their voice, howbeit, protest solemnly
unto them and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over
them," i.e., not of any particular king, but the general manner of
the kings of the earth, whom Israel was so eagerly copying after.
And notwithstanding the great distance of time and difference of
manners, the character is still in fashion.

And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people, that
asked of him a king. And he said, "This shall be the manner of the
king that shall reign over you:

"He will take your sons and appoint them for himself for his
chariots, and to be his horsemen, and some shall run before his
chariots [this description agrees with the present mode of
impressing men] and he will appoint him captains over thousands and
captains over fifties, and will set them to ear his ground and to
reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and
instruments of his chariots; and he will take your daughters to be
confectionaries and to be cooks and to be bakers [this describes the
expense and luxury as well as the oppression of kings] and he will
take your fields and your olive yards, even the best of them, and
give them to his servants; and he will take the tenth of your seed,
and of your vineyards, and give them to his officers and to his
servants [by which we see that bribery, corruption, and favoritism
are the standing vices of kings] and he will take the tenth of your
men servants, and your maid servants, and your goodliest young men
and your asses, and put them to his work; and he will take the tenth
of your sheep, ---and ye shall be his servants--- and ye shall cry
out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen, AND
THE LORD WILL NOT HEAR YOU IN THAT DAY."

This accounts for the continuation of monarchy; neither do the
characters of the few good kings which have lived since, either
sanctify the title, or blot out the sinfulness of the origin; the
high encomium given of David takes no notice of him officially as a
king, but only as a man after God's own heart.

Nevertheless the People refused to obey the voice of Samuel, and
they said, "Nay, but we will have a king over us, that we may be like
all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before
us and fight our battles."

Samuel continued to reason with them, but to no purpose; he set
before them their ingratitude, but all would not avail; and seeing
them fully bent on their folly, he cried out, "I will call unto the
Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain [which then was a
punishment, being the time of wheat harvest] that ye may perceive
and see that your wickedness is great which ye have done in the
sight of the Lord, IN ASKING YOU A KING."

So Samuel called unto the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain
that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And
all the people said unto Samuel, "Pray for thy servants unto the Lord
thy God that we die not, for WE HAVE ADDED UNTO OUR SINS THIS EVIL,
TO ASK A KING."

These portions of scripture are direct and positive. They admit of
no equivocal construction. That the Almighty hath here entered his
protest against monarchial government is true, or the scripture is
false. And a man hath good reason to believe that there is as much
of kingcraft, as priestcraft in withholding the scripture from the
public in Popish countries. For monarchy in every instance is the
Popery of government.

Our Western liberties were based on arguments such as these. What will happen in the West as these concepts fade from our culture?

In Sudan, people are still massacred by village raiders. Many parts of the world are still run by dictators, regional warlords or cartels, militaries, organized crime, warring factions, islamic radicals, Communist parties, and so on. We hear about these things but they are somehow not as “real” to us, because we grew up protected in the bubble of a Christian or post-Christian civilization.

We forget that those people have the same access to western knowledge, technology, virtues, and theories of government as anyone else, and that there is nothing to protect us, in our own decline, from becoming more and more like those countries. If the ideals of liberty are no longer part of our culture, then how can we expect them to be practiced by its people?

Anyone who doubts the relationship of biblical ideas to free enterprise need only to note the stark contrast with communism. Communism is specifically an atheistic system that relies on the non-biblical notion that all men are good (thus will work for the common good). But as nice of an idea as that is, communism has historically been an abject failure, both in its gross violations of human rights, and in its impoverishing economic policies—which are a direct result of failure to respect human rights.

Communist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara fought to build a new world, and dreamed of a "new man." He was galvanized into action after witnessing firsthand all the poverty in South America and he wanted to change the world for good. But everything that he fought for ended in dictatorship. Ultimately the philosophy that he died for did not have a practicing respect for human rights and liberties. This failure to recognize what is right, and to structure the government accordingly, has had tragic consequences time and time again with communist regimes in our modern history.

Here are just a few of the Scriptures that have influenced our Western Tradition:

"Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight,
so all will go well with you."
Deuteronomy 6:18

"Say to the children of Israel, I am the LORD,
and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians,
and I will rid you out of their bondage,
and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm,
and with great judgments.
And I will take you to me for a people,
and I will be to you a God:
and you shall know that I am the LORD your God,
which brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
And I will bring you in unto the land,
concerning which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob;
and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD."
Exodus 6:6-9

"After the doings of the land of Egypt,
(where you lived before), you shall not do:
and after the doings of the land of Canaan,
(where I am bringing you), you shall not do:
neither shall you walk in their ordinances.
You shall do MY judgments, and keep MY ordinances,
to walk in them: I am the LORD your God.
You shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments:
which if a man does, he shall live in them:
I am the LORD."
Leviticus 18:1-5

"Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it:
except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes in vain."
Psalms 127

"Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the courts."
Amos 5:15

"Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and
inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you."
Deuteronomy 16:20

"Select capable men from all the people,
men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain,
and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens."
Exodus 18:21

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.
For there is no power but of God:
the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God:
and they that resist shall receive to themselves condemnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.
Will you then not be afraid of the power?
Do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same:
For he is the minister of God to you for good.
But if you do that which is evil, be afraid;
for he bears not the sword in vain:
for he is the minister of God,
a revenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil.
Therefore you must be subject, not only for wrath,
but also for conscience sake."
Romans 13:1-5

"Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and
that write grievousness which they have prescribed;"
Isaiah 10:1

And David said to God,
"Wasn't it I who commanded the people to be numbered?
I am the one who has sinned, and done evil indeed;"
1 Chronicles 21:17a

"Woe to those who scheme iniquity,
who work out evil on their beds!
When morning comes, they do it,
(for it is in the power of their hands.)
They covet fields and then seize them,
and houses, and take them away
They rob a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance."
Micah 2:1-2

"Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto Him,
'Master, what shall we do?'
And He said to them, 'Exact no more than that which is appointed you.'
And the soldiers likewise demanded of Him, saying, 'And what shall we do?'
And He said unto them, 'Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely;
and be content with your wages.'"
Luke 3:12-14

"Do not pervert justice;
do not show partiality to the poor
or favoritism to the strong,
but judge your neighbor fairly."
Leviticus 19:15

"You shall not go after the majority to do evil.
Neither shall you testify in a matter of strife
to incline after the majority to pervert justice."
Exodus 23:2

"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart,
not reluctantly or under compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:7

"You shall not accept a bribe,
for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise
and subverts the cause of the righteous."
Deuteronomy 16:19

"You shall not lend upon usury to thy brother;
usury of money, usury of victuals,
usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:
Unto a stranger you may lend upon usury;
but unto your brother you shall not lend upon usury:
that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you set your hand to
in the land whither you go to possess it."
Deut 23:19-20

"You shall not have different weights in your bag, a great and a small.
You shall not have different measures in your house, a great and a small.
But you shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure
you shall have: That your days may be lengthened in the land which the
LORD your God gives you."
Deuteronomy 25:13

"You shall not steal."
Exodus 20:15

"Different weights, and different measures, both of them are alike
abomination to the LORD."
Proverbs 20:10

He overturned the tables of the money-lenders,
and the benches of those selling doves.
"It is written," he said to them,
"'My house will be called a house of prayer,' (1)
but you are making it a 'den of thieves' (2)."
Matthew 21:12b-13, 1. Isaiah 56:7, 2. Jeremiah 7:11

"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."
Proverbs 22:7

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows,
he shall also reap."
Galatians 6:7

"You are bought with a price; be you not the servants of men."
1 Corinthians 7:23

"You cannot serve both God and Mammon."
Luke 16:13

"Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
2 Corinthians 3:17

"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all its inhabitants."
Leviticus 25:10

"From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;"
Genesis 2:16a

"So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do unto you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
-Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:12

"We must obey God rather than men."
-Acts 5:29

"For the LORD is our judge;
the LORD is our lawgiver;
the LORD is our king."
Isaiah 33:22

"And it shall come to pass, if you listen diligently to the voice of the
Lord your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command
you today, that the Lord your God will set you on high, above all nations
of the earth"
Deuteronomy 28:1

"Righteousness exalts a nation."
Proverbs 14:34

"Tell the righteous it will be well with them,
for they will enjoy the fruit of their labor."
Isaiah 3:10

"A righteous man knows the rights of the poor;
a wicked man does not understand such knowledge."
Proverbs 29:7

"Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?"
-Jesus Christ, Matthew 20:15

"The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,
and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it,
he will be blessed in what he does."
James 1:25

"Whoever hears these words of mine and puts them into practice,
he is like a wise man, who built his house upon a rock:
and the rain descended,
and the floods came,
and the winds blew,
and beat upon that house;
and it fell not:
for it was founded upon a rock."
Matthew 7:24-25

"Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may
go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you
do that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy 12:28-32

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then,
and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
-Galatians 5:1

"If someone is caught kidnapping a fellow Israelite and treating or selling them as a slave,
the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you."
-Deuteronomy 24:7

"If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master.
Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose.
Do not oppress them."
-Deuteronomy 23:15-16

"Whoever hears these words of mine and fails to do them,
he is like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand,
and the rain descended,
and the rivers came,
and the winds blew,
and they dashed against that house;
and it fell, and its fall was great."
Matthew 7:26-27

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:
because you have rejected knowledge,
I will also reject you,
that you shall be no priest to me:
seeing you have forgotten the law of your God,
I will also forget your children."
Hosea 4:6

"Come now you rich,
weep and howl for your miseries
which are coming upon you.
Your riches have rotted
Your gold and your silver have rusted
and their rust will be a witness against you.
It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!
Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields
-- which has been withheld by you --
cries out against you,
and the outcry of those who did the harvesting
has reached the ears of the Lord of the Sabbath.
You have lived luxuriously on the earth,
and led a life of wanton pleasure.
You have fattened your hearts
in a day of slaughter
You have condemned and murdered the righteous man;"
James 5:1-6

"...And you had turned, and had done right in my sight, in
proclaiming liberty, every man to his neighbor; and you had made a
covenant before me in the house which is called by my name.
"But you turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his
servant, and every man his handmaid, whom you had set at liberty, to
return, and brought them into subjection, to be your servants and
handmaids."
Therefore, thus says the Lord; "You have not hearkened unto me,
in proclaiming a liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his
neighbor: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, says the Lord, to the
sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be
removed into all the kingdoms of the earth."
Jeremiah 34:15-17

"Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the LORD’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say:
'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
and we shall walk in His paths.'
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."
Isaiah 2:2-3

"In the last days... everyone will
sit under their own vine,
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken."
Micah 4:1-4

"Because the creature itself also shall be delivered
from the bondage of corruption
into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
Romans 8:21

ON THE DECLINE OF THE CHURCH

(For example, the Inquisition.)

Events such as these are a stain on the history of Christendom. But every great civilization is bound to have its villains. Certainly not even Christ’s enemies could claim that those terrible historical events would have been advocated by Christ. Could you? They fly in the face of his teachings and the example he set by his life—and death.

Could Muhammad say the same?

Over the centuries, the Catholic Church merged with government, became political and corrupt, and was associated with evil acts. It became nothing more than a political organization by that time, a medieval power base. I believe that any denomination of church is susceptible to this, as Christ’s laws can only be effective when written on the heart. Even the book of Revelation is full of warnings to apostate churches.

Christ and Religion

Christ taught boldly against religious leaders, and his stern rebuke of their hypocrisy stands the test of time. His consistent message? That the base of power among men was guilty of layering their own tradition over God’s original commandments. To demonstrate this, Christ deliberately flouted their rules, by healing on the Sabbath, by allowing his followers to pick food on the Sabbath, by questioning rhetorically whether a man should save his sheep on the Sabbath, and so on. Those Jewish religious leaders, “called out” by Christ, were precisely the ones who had him arrested, beaten, and killed. (But isn’t that the history of Israel’s prophets?)

Please don’t mistake me: the enemy isn’t the Jews, but the world establishment itself. The establishment of power in the world today stands in opposition to the reign of God. (In all cultures: Jewish, Islamic, Christendom, Chinese, etc and in all religions as well.)

In part, Christ’s legacy, in his life and death, paints a vivid picture of the world establishment that stands in opposition to God, as being composed of: (1) “The Ruler of this World” aka “The Wicked One” (a spiritual entity) (2) the religious authorities (symbolized by the Temple religious leaders), (3) the political authorities (symbolized by Rome, Pilate, the Roman soldiers, and by Herod the Great and Herod Antipas), and (4) Jesus’ legacy also demonstrates a pronounced rebuke of “the money changers” aka “the money lenders”. (Try searching Google Images for “Jesus money lenders” or “Jesus money changers” and see what kind of Jesus comes up in the art of the world when those characters are introduced to the scene. There’s apparently a whole other side to Jesus when money lenders come into the equation. Something about “My Father’s house being made into a den of thieves…”)

So then, what sort of warning has Jesus chosen to cast across history, by singling out for us the religious leaders and the money lenders? That’s a matter for debate, but certainly we can all agree that if anyone deserves a pass when it comes to corrupt religious leaders, it’s Jesus Christ! Certainly he has been the first to rebuke them, and would be the first to do so today. Similarly, Jesus is probably the last person you could ever blame for the evils of fractional reserve banking and elastic money supply--even though such institutions are powerful Western symbols in this day and age.

The Bible and Decline in the Church

Christ apparently believed in the legitimacy of the Hebrew religion (“I come to fulfill the Law and Prophets…”) so it follows: legitimate religion can and does become political and corrupt over time. Part of Christ’s mission was to do away entirely with the priesthood, and bring mankind directly into God and God’s reign, spiritually and economically. But this can only be done in man’s heart.

Given the New Testament warnings about decline of the Church, why should we be surprised when history shows us such decline has occurred after the Ascension? Even the book of Revelation opens with warnings to various churches in decline, and predicts that opposition again will rise up against Christ’s reign, even after the second coming and a thousand years into Christ’s future reign on earth!

Surely members of any Christian denomination must see some hint of church decline when they cast their critical (and log-ridden) eyes toward other denominations on the earth today?

BY THEIR FRUITS YOU WILL KNOW THEM

Even accepting an imperfect Church(s), when you compare the great civilizations, certain distinctions do become glaringly clear. In his sequel to Churchill’s great work, The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, (and not to puff up any Anglophiles), Andrew Roberts writes:

“Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no-one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire–led and the American Republic–led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. It will be recognized that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common—and enough that separated them from everyone else—that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity, which only scholars and pedants will try to describe separately.”

Commenting on this, Mark Steyn writes:

“If you step back for a moment, this seems obvious. There is a distinction between the ‘English-speaking peoples’ and the rest of ‘the West,’ and at key moments in human history that distinction has proved critical.

“Continental Europe has given us plenty of nice paintings and agreeable symphonies, French wine and Italian actresses and whatnot, but, for all our fetishization of multiculturalism, you can’t help noticing that when it comes to the notion of a political West—one with a sustained commitment to liberty and democracy—the historical record looks a lot more unicultural and, indeed (given that most of these liberal democracies other than America share the same head of state), uniregal. The entire political class of Portugal, Spain, and Greece spent their childhoods living under dictatorships. So did Jacques Chirac and Angela Merkel. We forget how rare on this earth is peaceful constitutional evolution, and rarer still outside the Anglosphere.”

It’s also worth considering that when Christian restraints have been removed from a society, the atrocities are magnified many times over. For example, the regimes of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot were essentially atheistic bloodbaths. (And they all occurred in modern, secular societies with all the benefits of education and science.) These twentieth century despots alone account for well over 100 million murders. The evidence is strong that when the restraining influence of Christianity has been removed from a country or culture, unmitigated disaster will naturally follow. As admitted by existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, "[Without God] all activities are equivalent." 

So the question isn’t whether the churches were perfect historically—they were not. The question, rather, is whether the overall condition and nature of man was improved from where it otherwise would have been. It’s about whether or not Christ had a massively positive impact on human history, more than any other historical figure, and even through the work of imperfect men. And history testifies to a vast improvement in the human condition as the legacy of Christ. Of course, we cannot expect perfection in the church, even according to Christ’s own predictions, not yet anyway, not until “the time of the end.” But the Christian ideal is the elevation of barbaric man to become a higher being, and a higher society, as a result of the spread of the word of God across the earth.

In contrast to that history, I encourage anyone to read the bloody history of the Jihad and decide for himself. I do not doubt that some achievements have been made in the Islamic world, in mathematics, astronomy, and so on. Islam had a heyday during the Middle Ages that is still written about romantically to this day. But in comparison to the historical legacy of Christ, the historical legacy of Muhammad is one of the sword, of forced conversion, of slavery, piracy and terrorism. Today, in Muslim majority areas around the world, minority Christians are persecuted, forced to move, or live as Dhimmi, and some have even been beheaded.

“By their fruits you will know them.”

I challenge you to show me how the credentials of Muhammad can match up against the credentials of the Lord Jesus Christ?

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Note: various arguments, quotes, scriptures, etc in this letter were copied, pasted, paraphrased, plagiarized, re-interpreted, etc from various books, websites, wikipedia, google, etc and condensed, organized, cleaned, edited, etc--and continue to be.