Categories
Life

Try to be absolutely clear when you say, “I am a Christian”

I don’t really like labels in Christianity, because on the surface, they seem to divide people who are Christians.  That can be true.  But it is also true that labels can be helpful when talking to people who are not Christian, but say they are.  In today’s pluralistic, postmodern, theological buffet-type culture, we must be able to distinguish our beliefs from other false ideas about Christianity.

To say to someone, “I’m a Christian,” is biblically correct, and should be sufficient (it would have been in the first century).  At the same time a friend might say to me, “I’m a Christian,” but it’s evident that they are no more a Christian than I am an oak tree.  How can I make sure that my misguided friend understands the difference  in our beliefs?

Consider this analogy.  I ask my friend what being Christian means to him.  He says, “I go to church.  I pray before meals.  I try to be a good person.”  Then he asks me what being Christian means to me.  I say, “I am a born-again, Evangelical.  That means I believe the Bible is the infallible, authoritative word of God and that the only way to be forgiven of sin, escape the wrath of God, and have eternal life is justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ , who died on the cross and rose from the dead.”

When I defined being a Christian for myself, I put a label on myself (I use the word “label” here kind of loosely).  I labeled myself as an Evangelical (I could have even included the word “Protestant” in there too).  But the important thing is that I gave the label a precise definition.  The term “Evangelical” was practically synonymous with “Protestant” during the Reformation era.  The two main issues during this time were authority and justification.  The Catholic Church believed authority belonged to the Pope, and that justification could be purchased through indulgences.  The Reformers believed that authority was in the Word of God, and that justification was by grace and faith alone in Jesus.  This mean they protested (Protestant) against the false doctrines of the Catholic church, and identified themselves with the evangel (the true gospel of Scripture).

Because some people believe that Jesus is no more than a great moral teacher, and that the Bible is just a grab-bag story book with some good insights, we must be crystal clear in communicating what being “Christian” really means.  And sometimes, whether we want to or not, lableing ourselves might be helpful.

Categories
Life Theology

Reply to a Friend on the Evidence of Jesus’ Death

A guest post by Jordan Esmay

On a previous post, the conversation went to the subject of Jesus and the evidence of his death.  I thought I would address this briefly.  My arguments for the life and death of Jesus are not uncommon, they’ve mostly been the same for a very long time and when good arguments hold water I think we should keep using them.  Therefore, the following, although not entirely cited (mostly because there are so many and I’m not sure where they originated), is taken from several sources.  Also the post will not be terribly.

To start, we Christians do have evidence for the death of Jesus.  Primarily the New Testament and, even more specifically, the Gospels.  The Bible is at the very least an historical text.  To simply say that it is not evidence for the death of Jesus is like saying it is not evidence for the life of Pontius Pilate.  There needs to be sound arguments for why the text is not reliable as evidence.  As I am not talking about the reliability of the New Testament I will only suggest reading scholars such as F.F. Bruce and Walter C. Kaiser for the arguments on the reliability of the Biblical Texts.

Secondly as to extra-Biblical sources, we have many.  Also for the sake of space, I will point to Philip Schaaf’s work: The Person of Christ: The Miracle of History (Collection of Testomonies of Unbelievers) for a list, citation, and brief explanation of those who mention Jesus and his death.

As to the argument of Jesus surviving the crucifixion, where is the evidence for that?  How does a man who is beaten to the point of not being able to carry his object to which he is later nailed, then being stabbed with a spear to make sure he is dead, then wrapped in cloth, then placed in a cold tomb able to recover from the trauma enough to not only stand, but to remove the cloth that is wrapped around him, fold the cloth that covered his face, leave the bandages (i.e. not use them to stop bleeding wounds) remove the stone that is in front of his tomb and finally to make not only his closest friends but 500 people believe that he rose from the dead.  I’m guessing that he wouldn’t be to shiny after all of that.  We Christians have at least the evidence above.

Finally, why would Jesus’ closest friends after seeing him in such a horrible state and recognizing that he had merely survived a horrible ordeal, go on to put there lives through torture, and ultimately death, knowing that what they were doing was a hoax.  As Paul even said, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

My hope is that more discussion will follow in the comments, so please comment.