Christ’s Resurrection Celebration

Christ's ResurrectionEach week as Christians meet we remember Christ’s resurrection and victory over death. Annually we remember that at the time of Passover Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) But without the resurrection, the sacrifice would be meaningless. As Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised your faith is worthless” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Our faith is not worthless, because Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death.

How do we know that is true? Some unbelievers argue that the resurrection is just a myth that arose many years later. The evidence against that idea is numerous and strong. The apostles carried the message of Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the Roman Empire for the rest of their lives. That was even though they had nothing to gain except a life of persecution ending in execution. If they had not seen the resurrected Christ, they would not have spent their lives proclaiming the message of the resurrection.

The argument that the gospels were written years later has often been used to “prove” that the resurrection was a myth that developed during those years. However, Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth in A.D. 57, before any of the four gospels were written. In it, he included an oral tradition which gives a summary of the gospel message.

Today we have access to writing materials, books, and computers. We are accustomed to writing things down. In the first century, there were no computers or printed books or pamphlets. Even simple writing materials were scarce and precious. People memorized important things by summarizing them efficiently and then passing them on as oral traditions. The early Christians used that method. Here is the first part of an oral tradition that Paul wrote down in that first letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to…”

The oral tradition then goes on to list some resurrection appearances of Christ. Then Paul adds himself to the list of those who saw the resurrected Christ. (You can read it for yourself in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.) Of course, the “Scriptures” that Paul refers to are the Old Testament prophecies of Christ since the New Testament was not yet written.

When did Paul receive this tradition? He probably received it no later than A.D. 36 when he first visited Jerusalem. (See Galatians 1:15-18.) It is possible that he received it earlier than that in Damascus when, as Saul the persecutor, he encountered Ananias and received his sight. Ananias preached the gospel to him and “Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.” Whether in Jerusalem or Damascus, Paul received the oral tradition of Christ’s resurrection no more than five years after the event. That tradition was not a myth that developed years later after the eyewitnesses had died.

As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection each week and especially at this time of year, we can trust the story is true. We have that oral tradition written down, but we would do well to memorize it as the early Christians did.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Mob Psychology – Then and Now

Mob Psychology – Then and Now

One of the interesting characteristics of the people of the first century was the fact that they allowed mob psychology to control what they believed and what they did. We see this happening in the accounts described in the book of Acts.

A good example is an incident at Lystra in Acts 14:8-20. The story begins with Paul healing a man who was born with a physical deformity that made it impossible for him to walk. The crowd saw that an indisputable miracle had taken place. They cried out that Paul and Barnabas were gods who had come to Earth in the form of men. They called Barnabas Zeus and Paul they called Hermes (the god of speech). The local priest brought garlands and oxen for sacrifice.

When Paul and Barnabas realized what was going on, they rushed into the crowd and proclaimed that they were not gods, but just ordinary men. They seized upon the opportunity to tell the people about Jesus. Verse 18 tells us that “even by saying words like these it was all they could do to keep the crowds from sacrificing to them.” Almost immediately opponents of Christianity showed up and “turned the minds of the crowd against Paul.” The same crowd that wanted to make Paul a god now stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead. This is an amazing change of belief among the crowd, and it shows mob psychology at work.

The classic example of mob psychology is the crowd that demanded the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In spite of the evidence and the best effort of Pilate, the mob demanded the freeing of a known criminal and the crucifixion of the obviously innocent Jesus.

People today are no different when it comes to mob psychology. I have spoken to groups of atheists in public venues in which they summarily rejected anything I said, even though it was obviously true. I have spoken in other venues sponsored by a local religious group where I could say anything, and the crowd would approve it. Having a debate is no way to come to an understanding of truth. That is because what the crowd believes is what they came into the debate believing and no amount of evidence will change their minds.

Unfortunately, mob psychology applies in politics where our political figures, for the most part, regurgitate what their political party has decided to be true. No matter what the evidence is, they refuse to consider other options. We have seen that clearly in recent years in the inability of Congress to accomplish anything of substance. Public evangelists frequently “seed” some people in a crowd to come forward during an invitation, because they are trying to invoke mob psychology to move people.

When you study conversions in the New Testament, you see people sitting down in a one-on-one relationship and considering the evidence. Deciding what to believe is most fruitfully done in rational one-on-one discussions. We live in a wonderful time in which people can consider the evidence in the privacy of their own homes. The “Does God Exist?” ministry attempts to reach people in that way. We strive to be intellectually honest by presenting, in a personal way, what the evidence is and how we should react to it.

We have many websites designed to reach people on a personal level. It is not our desire to stampede anyone into a belief they don’t understand or to move anyone to make an emotional decision. Jesus reasoned with people, and Paul presented evidence. It is up to you to decide what you will believe, but we hope you will base that decision on a careful study of the evidence.

In addition to this website, we have doesgodexist.org, doesgodexist.tv, and our Facebook page facebook.com/evidence4god. Email is an excellent way to ask questions as you learn and grow in understanding. You can always email questions to jncdge@aol.com.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Making a Cake of Life

Making a Cake of Life
When I was a child, my mother used to “farm me out” to a family that lived in Brown County, Indiana. Their home was near Salt Creek where I could fish and hike to my heart’s content. Alice and Earl Page were my hosts, and they both loved to play jokes on me. One of them involved making a cake.

One rainy day I sat in the kitchen and watched Alice make a cake, although she didn’t tell me what she was making. She took a block of chocolate and asked me if I wanted a bite. Naturally, I did, but it was bitter chocolate, and I quickly spat it out. She opened a bottle of vanilla she was using and had me smell it. It was Hoosier vanilla, not the Mexican kind we have today. When I tasted the “Hoosier vanilla,” I could hardly believe something that smelled that good could taste that bad. The next ingredient was a spoon full of lard, which Alice even got me to taste. Then she handed me a paper towel to get it out of my mouth.

Alice put all of these things along with lemon juice, baking powder, etc., into a bowl and asked me to stir it up. “We’re having this for supper,” she announced. I started thinking about a way to eat somewhere else. You know that when supper rolled around, there was this wonderful fragrance floating through the kitchen. I found that it was a real treat to eat all those horrible ingredients when baked together.

Do you realize that your life is like making a cake? Your cake of life is made up of a lot of ingredients that in and of themselves are very distasteful. Look at the Apostle Paul for a minute. In Acts 22:3-21 Paul reveals his ingredients for making a cake. He was born a Jew in Tarsus and educated at the feet of Gamaliel. He became a primary persecutor of Christians (Galatians 1:11-24) making havoc of the Church (Acts 8:3). Paul had a religious experience that was traumatic in Acts 9, and he spent three years in exile in Arabia (Galatians 1:17). His ministry began in Acts 13 with years of violence, abuse, imprisonment, conflict, and trouble. It finally ended in 2 Timothy 4:6 at the end of his life.

What ingredients are making a cake in your life? They haven’t all had a good taste, have they? All of us have had rejection, failure, disappointments, sickness, the death of loved ones, and frustrations with human beings. Included in making a cake of your life has been sin, neglect, faithlessness, and failure; but Christ enables us to go through a fantastic change to newness. Romans 6 talks about baptism allowing us to die to sin and live a new life. Paul writes, “…being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have the ability to bear fruit to holiness and at the end, everlasting life. The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God (the cake that life has baked) is eternal life through Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:22, 33).

As we start a New Year, let us begin a new life that radiates a change that blesses others. Look at your past as ingredients that have allowed you to leave a good taste in the eyes of God and man.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Lukewarm Laodicea – Archaeological Evidence

Ruins of Lukewarm Laodicea
Ruins of Lukewarm Laodicea

Jesus addressed lukewarm Laodicea in a letter recorded in Revelation 3:14-22. In verses 15 and 16, Jesus told the congregation in that city that they make him sick because of their lukewarmness. There are many reasons for this lukewarmness. One of them appears to have been their compromise with religious pluralism.

An article in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review describes the apparent history of the church in that city. The archaeological artifacts found there give evidence of great financial prosperity in the city. There are also columns and tablets showing a collection of religious symbols from different faiths. One column has a menorah, a lulav (palm branch), a shofar (ram’s horn), and a cross. The Christian cross extends from the Jewish menorah and seems to connect the Laodicean church to the synagogue.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he addressed all of the churches in that region, including Laodicea. Paul primarily argued against the way many Christians were returning to following the laws and restrictions of the Old Testament. He wrote these rebuking words:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6, 7 NIV).

While we as Christians are to love and support others of a different faith, we are not to meld our faith into theirs. Lukewarmness is one of the products of such compromise. Religious pluralism didn’t work for lukewarm Laodicea, and it doesn’t work today.
–John N. Clayton © 2017