THIS IS A NEW PAGE TO OUR WEBSITE.
Sermons and Lessons From the Scriptures
Sermon 1. Is it Always Greener on the Other side of the Fence?
Text: Psalm 73
When I was in college I was iinterested in taking up drama. I was in many classes that taught drama and theatre production. I one class we had to make a stage setting with details in order to present to the teacher - the best design would be made into a life size stage for an actual play. My design won - it was for Our Town. One evening just as the building was ending I walked into the empty theatre to look over my work. What was once merely a model was now true to life. It looked reak from where I stood. The chairs the windows and even the mountain in the background. I was excited.
I went up on the stage to take a closer look. Yep, looks good. As my eyes took in the scene a friend entered throught the stage door, the door was open and the wind from outside blew in across the stage.
The mountain in the backgrond moved back in forth, and the walls and windows began to sway to the rythem of the wind. I realized that what seemed real was indeed merely an illusion. My mind wanted to believe that what was before me was real, but reality came in like a wind and blew my illusion to bits!
Of course I was still excited ... only now I realized that I needed to be excited over the reality of what I had envisioned rather than the illusion I wanted to believe.
The Psalmist in Psalm 73 also struggled to deal with what seemed real and what was real. He declairs that God is Good to Israel and brings to our attention the fact that his opening is a declaration of a near mistake - My foot almost slipped and I was envious ...
Envious of what? of the wicked who 'seem' to prosper. Oh yes they do indeed look from a distance to have it all. The psalmist sounds like many of us today as we glance over the fence into the neighbors yard - taking in the green grass and the beautiful flowers. They have cars and a nice house and everything looks so ... well nice.
We compare and then look at our lot; our lawn is dull and a bit shabby - hum, they must really have it together. But me ... humm, not me the weeds are the only thing that grows in m
The Psalmist says these folks have no pangs in their death ... their strength is firm and they are not troubled like other men - their eyes bulge with abundance ... They have more than the heart can wish ... sound like you and I yet ???
He is working himself into a real bummer mood by thinking this way ... he goes on, They seem to get away with violence and they set their mouths against heaven and ... does God even hear and do anything about this !! Oh my God If I did something wrong just once I would have the entire military on my back. I run a light and there is always a police officer their at the right moment, but others run them and get away with it --- yes I have seen it sitting in my car in Chicago wondering , How on earth did he do that?
They increase in riches ... everything I touch turns sour, but the guy next door does nothing and he gets it all. Where is the Justice in this God. The psalmist is just about ready to give it up. He is asking the same things we ask when our service to God does not seem to pay off - was it all worth it, did I make the right choice or has God forgotten me. How can I serve God when the ungodly seem to grow in abundance and I grow tired and sick?
But Oh how the table turns, now the psalmist in verses 17-22 begins to wake up, "when I considered this it was painful, but in the sanctuary it came to me ... lights on ... or better, lights , action, camera !!
I was blinded by my feel-sorry-for-myself attitude. They are not all that. On closer inspection they are indeed on slippery ground and they are forthermore in danger without knowing it. In a moment they are consumed with terror and cast down to destruction.
How foolish I was to think that all that glitters is gold; that the next yard seems beautiful and green and lush and therefore must represent the people in all their greatness and glory as well. Well, this is an error since outward appearence does not always reflect inward peace and faith. Its a model but when the winds blow the entire house and background moves in such a way as to reveal the unsure and unstable life many live.
The Psalmist realizes true joy when he states in verse 23 where he says God holds him in his right hand and God will guide him. Oh what true joy and security! Oh how green is my lawn and beautiful is my life when it is filled with the presence of the True and living God.
God is the strength of my heart and portion forever!
Now the psalmist is fully awake to the difference between the real and the ideal life we all seek to distinguish.
What about you? Have you ever felt this way? have you wondered if floowing God and Jesus have a pay off? The world's way is always summed up in the words, "What's in it for me?"
If we go by this standard we shall surely think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This is becasue we are always comparing ourselves and our situations to others who ... seem ... better off. Further we measure God's love toward us by how many things we have or how good we feel.
Dear friends, following God and Jesus is not always about how good you feel or how many toys you have. Its about inner joy and peace that the world cannot know. The world knows temporary happiness in the passing things - the follower of God and Jesus can know inner peace and joy because God guides and upholds us with His right hand.
Their are many who buy into the scene they create over the reality of God's love they can have as a reality in the midst of good and bad times.
True joy is found in Jesus Christ the Savior. Jesus points out the real and the ideal. Like a stage set, he shows us that, however real it may seem from a distance, up closer ... it is fake and flimsey - it will fall apart when the winds and trials come.
Jesus said he was the Way the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but through him. Friends we have many stage setups that offer ways to feel good and real - alive if you will. But only Jesus can offer the real thing! Today I would ask that you consider your thoughts and see if the grass is really greener over their ... is it? Are others in your life really that happy or deep down are they too seeking deeper more lasting peace. They may be looking at you just as much as you them and wondering.
If you know Jesus today, why not be an example of true peace by seeing the good you have. Yes, it can be hard to see it in times of trial and - yes, today with the major ecconomic challenges. But do you have friends, I mean true friends that stand by and with you in times of trial. Some friends say they will stand with you through thick and thin, but when things get thick, they get thin.
Jesus is a better way and an everlasting friend. Consider what you do have rather than comparing yourself against what others seem to have. Joy is not always a feeling but an inner peace that no matter what ... God is going to be there even when you cannot or choose not to see Him. Jesus never promised the grass would be greener following him ... but it will be better because the effects of following him are eternal versus temporal.
Hear the Psalmist's final words of joy ... "For indeed those who are far from you shall perish; Yopu have destroyed all those who desert You for harloty. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I mat declair all Your works".
The Pslamist is you and I in reality - because following God is a reality - it includes the good and the bad, the unjust and the just - in time we see the fake for what it is and the real comes through as we mature and realize that it is better to build a firm foundation in Jesus Christ over the foundation of sand which will not hold up when things get difficult.
Today I invite you to accept Jesus Christ as your savior and let him guide you by his right hand. He loves and accepts you now and proved it by dying on the cross for your sins - this was no stage set up but a real event in time and history.
The grass is not always greener on the other side friends ... it is green where you are right now when Jesus Christ is you shepherd - the good shepherd who leads us into greener yet pastures. Trust him and be sure to check the stage scene before you buy into the illusion. Glory be to Jesus Christ the only true and sure savior.
The Spirit Of Error
Text: I Kings 18:20-40
Elijah the prophet is about to encounter a bad situation which God is going to turn into good. The country has been infected with the question of truth - who is the true ruler God? is it the God os the Hebrew? or the god called Baal?
The story in Kings tells us how the trail by fire went. Elijah calls the priests and prophets of Baal to a contest to see what the truth is - who the truth is. Gathering the prophets of Baal and calling a national gathering was a big thing back then ... it is today as well. You tend to get peoples attention and hammer in the seriousness of the crsis facing the nation.
Elijah was no weakling of the faith ... he had courage and faith that God was not going to let him down. The contest begins and Elijah offers the Baal followers the first shot. Go for it ... set up your altar and call upon your god. The priests go for it. They rant and rave all day long calling upon their god to accept their sacrifice. Near to exhustion they begin to cut and slash their arms and falling to the ground they froth at the mouth in hopes that their god well see from heaven and answer. But silence is the only answer they recieve.
Elijah, looking on the whole drama taunts them: Perhaps you should cry louder ! Your god is sleeping or out ... he is on a journey or reliving himself ... awaken him if you can. Talk about mocking? This is a guy who is anointed with fire and Spirit.
No answer comes and Elijah takes his turn. Fill the jars with water and dig a trench around the altar. Fill it and then saturate the sacrificial offering with water ... Again ! and Again ... do it again.
Elijah, calm and sure in the Lord, offers prayer to the One True God who answers by fire which decends from heaven lapping up the sacrifice and everything around it - sticks, stones, altar and all !!! When God speaks, He speaks clearly and their is little confusion as to what He intends.
Elijah captures the fleeing Baal worshipers and ... well, ends their wondering for ever.
We live in an age of confusion regarding truth. We figure that near truth is good enough. If you are an airline director in the control tower and you have a 5 hour warning that the computer is about to bomb or a 30 second warning - which is more dangerous to the wellbeing of those in flight attempting to land safely? Of course the 5 hour warning. 3o seconds may be too late, too fatal! A Near truth is as fatal as a 30 second warning regarding eternal truths. Half truths and near truths when it comes to your eternal destiny are dangerous to play around with.
Something that looks awfully close to the truth is more dangerous than a blatant obvious lie. Yet many buy into the lie or settle for the near truth. Many churches today are not concerned with getting it right as they are getting together for fun and entertainment. Doctrine is downplayed and creeds are given lip service while freedom to interpret and re-interpret the teachings of scripture are numerous. Near truth is good enough, they say, because no one has all the truth.
To not have all truth is correct, but this does not mean we cannot know some truth. Having some truth is better than having no truth! Elijah was told just enough truth to win the day. The followers of Baal had thought they had truth but found out they had no truth. They paid a high price for this lazy attitude toward eternal matters.
The spirit of error has one center of operation - Satan. It's manifold expressions are found in our culture everyday - in the new age teachings of Oprah and other promise makers that lead us to believe that politics or political leaders will solve our problems. They will not. We are urged to place our faith in these uncertain days in numerous things - but our faith must rest in God alone. When band-aid remedies fail ... where will you turn? Who really has the good and who will really come through for you? Many are questioning today and wondering where to turn and who to turn to. Make sure that you know who is making the promises, it makes all the difference as the followers of Baal found out.
Yet we do not oppose inidividuals as much as ideologies and spiritual wickness in high places and these places includes high and low places of infleuence. From the Halls of accademia to the Hall of politics, as well as the Television programs we watch and the schools your children attend. Oprah Winfrey , for example, infleuences countless people over the wave every day with New Age promises. People are willing to buy into the lie because they are hungry for truth and something to fill the void in their lives - she fills it, even if a half truth or near truth or no truth is the diet she hands them. Such an attitude says a lot about our spiritual confusion in this day! It says a lot about the empty and meaningless feelings people carry with them daily - it says how vapid and in need we are of something to give us hope. There is a saying that goes, "If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything". We are falling for anything these days. Wake up!
Our churches as well have also bought into the near truth - Who would have guessed the church which claims to follow the One who claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life, would sell out so often to the popular culture? Preachers and theologians are daily softening the edges of the Gospel because it is too offensive to the seeker after God - too offensive to the spirit of the age which glorifies tolerance and confuses such with acceptance of everything as equal truth. Such were the prophects of Baal - they too were confused until God revealed Himself for who He really is - the Truth. And why are we doing this? Is God really hiding from people that they cannot find Him? Are people almost Christians - it is confusing to note the many ways the church has become infatuated with popular notions over eternal and lasting truths. What's going on? Could it be a spirit of error has invaded our many churches? Maybe. But back to Elijah.
Just as Elijah fought on mount Carmal for truth, we today are fighting as well for truth. We fight against spiritual principalities and powers - against demonic forces and vain philosophies - we, like Elijah must fight with a Sacred Fire - Sacred fire is the power to speak up against the forces that confuse and rob us of the spiritual victories Christ Jesus has promised us who believe in him and follow him. Elijah settled the matter on Mt Carmal and did not back away from the trial by fire. Niether should the Church of Christ. If anyhting we must march forward to meet the challenges that confront us in all directions.
Elijah did not win the day by clever argumentation or intellectual dialogue -It was not wishing that lead him to the victory but faith, it was quiet faith in God and obeying His lead that lead the day - the battle is the Lord's not ours. We need not be in fear or defensive - just defend with quiet faith that which has the power to transform lives from fear and bondage to freedom in Christ. We need people to speak with boldness ... we need back-bone not wish-bone today. Elijah had back-bone - oh that more preachers would also speak out without fear of being disliked or dispelled from their pulpits and jobs. Will you sell your values out for a paycheck preacher? Are you pleasing men or God? Is being popular more important that loyal? If so you need to leave the pulpit and move into entertainment positions. You want approval from the world but you cannot have both the world and Jesus' approval. Make your choice between Baal and the true God. This was the real challenge before Elijah and the prophets of Baal - it was indeed. The line was drawn and the stakes were high. they are still my friends.
Elijah exposed the near truths and the none truths of Baal - fire cleanses and refines and makes the dross to burn away leaving the raw material from which God shapes us and refines us into a tool of beauty and strength. Do not think it strange says Peter when trials come - they are not to punish but to promote integrity and strength.
Exposing the spirit of error as I John points out is testing the spirits to see if they be of God or not. Elijah tested the prophets of Baal by fire - If God be God follow Him, and if Baal than follow him. Lets see what your faith is made of - lets lay it out and open up to being tested and see if the truths we hold to in scripture can stand up. If we are not willing to do this my friends, the world will never have reason to listen to the message we bear. Who will be there in the end when all else has failed? When the economy fails, the housing fails, the floods come and earthquakes rage and storms grow stronger and more violent. Jesus warned of this in Mark 13. Here are the signs of the times before my return - note them well they hearled my coming - they say it is near and these signs will be for a warning - not a 5 hour one nor a 30 second one but like a thief in the night a moment in the twinkling of an eye - it shall come. You will not have time to get it together - you will not have time to put off the decission to make Christ Jesus your savior and Lord - you will not have forever to be uncertain. When truth looks you in the face my suggestion is GO FOR IT.
A near truth is dangerous - nearly getting the cancer is dangerous, nearly being sure your right with God is dangerous. The prophets of Baal confessed, "the Lord He is God, the Lord He is God". Jesus told his disciples that he came to bring fire on the earth and Oh how I wish it was already aglow already! Jesus knew that the only cleansing was through fire! Baptism with water and fire - preaching with Divine fire -
Today we need more Elijahs who can speak with divine fire - not anger or defensiveness, but sound forward focus on what truths we can know. Too many churches and people make a dogma of doubt and uncertainty - it is no wonder the church has become a weak and weaker voice in our culture today. We have accepted near truths and have retreated into the private walls of our sanctuaries afraid to proclaim boldly - If God is God follow Him! Chronic uncertainty is cowardly - Christ did not call his church to be cowardly but to speak the truth in love.
May we speak the truth in love but boldly. May preachers regain their voice with Divine Fire and Passion - we have lost the passion to see souls won to Christ - we have allowed our faith to be silenced and taken from us - we gave it over, it was not taken by force!
Like Elijah, may we call a meeting and lay the challenge before people - taste and see that God is Good , He will come through for us - he made a promise of the Messiah's first coming and he will come through on the Second advent as well.
Have you read the Scriptures? Have you even given them a chance to speak? Or have you already decided they cannot be trusted? Give it a chance and see that all God has promised has come about - all that God promises for our future will come about. Test the spirits,see if they are from God - there are spirits of truth and of error - depart from the teaching of Scripture and you are open to anything - you will believe anything - only God, the true God and Jesus can fill your void. Are you willing to risk seeking the True God? He loves you and is wanting you to be in relationship with Him.
Friends ... today if you are confused as to your eternal state, you can know for sure that Jesus loves you and has won the victory at the Cross. The spirit of error cannot stand up to the glorious truth of Christ Jesus. Will you let him in to your hearts and be lead from the bondage of the spirit of error into the freedom of truth and forgiveness in Christ? Let him speak to you with words of Divine Fire They Word Oh Lord is truth - the Scriptures cannot be broken!!!
All glory to God. Amen.
LESSON : Theology, church history
What is 'Reformed' theology.
Many people ask me what is a 'Reformed' church? Many churches stand in the tradition of the 'Reformed heritage'. This refers to the radical reformation that came after Martin Luther. Clavin is the great figurehead in the radical reformation and many call themselves Clavinists. Churches that are within Reformed tradition include Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterian, and many others including Dutch Reformed and Evangelical and Reformed.
Reformed theology wishes to draw themes, for example, out of Confessional beliefs such as the Apostles Creed and give to each statement is due weight. each in the right relation to the other. William Edgar in his book , 'Truth in All It's Glory: Commending the Reformed Faith' Brings out many good points regarding true Reformed Theology. He states, "The Reformed faith means to give fullest expression to the basic statements in many of the creeds of the church (Apostles' creed for example). Edgar states, "This succint yet integral summary of the fundamentals of the faith statement has withstood the test of time. Reformed theology wishes to build on this kind of creedal statement and work out the implications in depth." While many churches today come out of a 'Reformed' tradition they no longer hold to the core of Reformed theology. Edgar states, "The claim of Reformed theology is to be more consistent in the expression of these truths (Apostles' Creed for example) than other kinds of theology. It wants to give a fuller significance to each of these doctrines (Virgin Birth, Atonement, Person of Jesus Christ, Soverignty of God, Salvation, Sin, heaven and hell, etc) . It wants to avoid choosing some of them over others or stating one by diminishing another".
Many churches claim to be non-doctrinal and non-creedal. Doctrine simply means 'teaching'. The Bible teaches us about God and the plan of redemption. Because these teachings are Biblical they are also good for teaching or doctrine (II Tim 3: 16). The Reformed faith believes the Bible is absolute authority and its teachings are true and trustworthy. The belief in the One True God, all powerful over all, God's only Son Jesus Christ, and the redemptive plan God has throughout history revealed in both the Hebrew nation and the Gentile world (Old and New Tstaments) is one story and one covenant dispensed differently.
Reformed theology witnesses the falleness of humankind and the effects Sin has on all of humankind. It acknowledges the soverign God working in history to overcome the evil in man by sending His son Jesus to die on the Cross for our sin if we claim him as Lord and Savior. God overcomes sin and its effects ,death and suffering ,and offers redemption through Grace and the efficatious death of Jesus Christ Lord and Messiah.
Reformed Theology see the interconnection of God's working in both the Hebrew Testament up to the New Covenant in Christ's blood. We love to say in Reformed circles, "The Old Testament conceals Christ and the New Testament reveals Christ".
We hold that Salvation is a work of God alone and not of man. It is all about grace a free gift so we cannot boast of our good works. It holds to a God who seeks and chooses us out of His desire to continue fellowship with His creature - Grace is the center of Reformed theology - it claims By Grace alone we are granted the Faith which Alone can lead to salvation which is a Gift of Christ Jesus alone.
Many churches today are into trendy and new theologies - Fearing what they believe to be dead orthodoxy, they have sought new ways to understand and, at times, re-invent Christian faith. Such men as Marcus Borg and the Jesus Seminar have been rather prolific in their new gospel which begins with the presupposition that the Bible cannot be trusted so 'trust us' to re-invent it for a more modern day crowd. Edgar rightly states, "It is a danger to be constantly looking for something new and original, like a branch trying to grow without a trunk. Some theologians are all too willing to abandon traditional formulations only because they are out of fashion. In the words of the apostle, this is from "itching ears" or , worse, and unhealthy craving for controversy".
Our postmodern era has exhusted the new and original to the point of X-ing even their own claims of what they hold to as 'right'beliefs - because they have abandoned absolutes as regards truth, their claims fail to have any meaning whatsoever. Edgar states, "Theology that turns it's back on the discoveries made by our predecessors for the sake of finding something new is simply foolish. The Holy Spirit continues to teach the church today BUT always on the shoulders of giants."
Living orthodoxy is the goal of a present Reformed Theology which is robust and in relation to the arts, the scientific, the technological, the educational, it is community oriented, interested in the place of the political in a Christians life, and more. Edgar says, "Living orthodoxy is the goal of Reformed theology" and he is right. While no one system of theology is totally right, Reformed theology remains open to the real possiblity that no matter how closely it may stick to Biblical themes and try to understand them correctly, human nature is sinful and therefore prone to err. Edgar states, "There is no human statement of doctrines, however correct and well-ordered, that in itself can safeguard our faithfulness. Only when the humility of true godliness is combined with obedience to the sound words can a theology emerge that may hope to be orthodox" (I Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 2:2)
In Reformed theology we hold to the belief that the Bible alone is the final authority on matters of faith and practice. All other standards (Westminster Confession for example) serve only to direct us to Scripture and what it teaches it is, nervertheless, under the Scriptures and can lay no claim to our conscience.
Reformed theology is a living faith and it's expression need not rest in past or outwarn expression of faith. Many Reformed Churches today that are truely 'Reformed' are finidng new ways to re-connect to our culture in ways that are dynamic and exciting. It is no wonder why many are fleeing liberal churches to re-experience the eternal and unchanging truths of the Bible. It is the Hope of those of us who are happy to stand within the 'Reformed' tradition that this tradition will not claim for itself anything but that it desires to preach and teach these eternal truths found in the Bible as faithfully as humanly possible. We desire to uphold Christian hope first within a Reformed context.
Reformed theology prizes the orthodox tradition not as some dead past that we should hold to - but as a living tradition that is filled with warmth, life, theological creativity, and solid and sound guidelines for a dynamic living and evangelical faith. Check out some of these Churches that are growing and reaching out to this generation - and they are listening !!!
People want to know truth - people want the church to have a voice in our society with the courage to speak the truth in love. People's hearts are hungry for the Gospel and the Jesus Christ as he is presented in the Gospel. They are tired of overly political overly passive theologies which watter down and negotiate the essentials away. In hard times, people want a reliable guide -
As a Reformed minister, I am happy that the re-birth of orthodoxy is not only present in Reformed churches, but in many others that do not share the Reformed tradition - God bless them !! If you are interested in learning more about Reformed Theology check your webbsites - there are many good educational sites that will give you information - some are listed below.
See Under: Presbyterian and reforemd churches, Calvinism,
To God alone be the glory !!
What is Gnosticism?
Around the Christmas season you might have stations on TV such as the PBS station broadcast commentaries on the 'life of Jesus'. One such program I had recently viewed was called, 'From Jesus to Christ'. Many people who go to church as well as the unchurched watch these telecasts. They provide a great deal of information; some of this information is accurate while some information is not. This lesson will comment on the PBS broadcat 'From Jesus to Christ' and point out some of the information that is often overlooked.
What does it mean to say, 'From Jesus to Christ' ?
Biblical criticism which emerged in the early 18th century sought to view the Bible as a document written solely by humans containing all the human errors in reason and historical facts. Higher criticism stated that the Bible could not be trusted to be factually and historically accurate. Because of the diverity of writers and the evolutionary development of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) many phases had to happen. When the Old and New Testaments had reached their final stage and were Canonized (Made acceptable and complete rule of faith including those books accepted as 'Scripture') they had contained all the prejudices and errors made by those who made decisions regarding what books would be accepted and those that were not as scripture.
Higher criticism sought to unravel the myths and fables contained in Scripture - both fable and myth as well as some facts were mixed. The job of Higher criticism was to decide what was fact and what was fiction. Based on older scholarship and without the aid of current finds in archeology and other domains of knowledge such as cosmology and insight into Jewish traditions and literature, conclusions were made. The Bible was layered with myth and fable and therefore it was necessary to strip the myths to get to the facts. Higher Criticism sought to find the Historical Jesus the person and present him as a regular guy who, throughout the many ages of evelution in biblical liturature, became a mythic figure of worship called 'the Christ'. Jesus the man had evolved into Jesus the Christ. In reality these were two very different figures. One was the real person the other a developed figure out of the minds and imaginations of those who sought to understand him as presented in the various and diverse expressions of the emerging Christian community (Early Church). Much of the evidence modern critics used to launch their search for the Historical Jesus and the Christ figure was tied to literature found in 1945 called the Nag Hammadi Gospels. Such groups today who use these writs to foster their critical view of the New Tstament is the Jesus Semiar. Most in the Critical scholl of thought believe that it is the teachings of Jesus that are more important than the person of Jesus. Jesus was not the Savior or Second Person of the Trinity, he did not die for our sins on the cross, did not resurrect, was not a miracle worker, and certainly did not teach he would return again. Critics hold that these beliefs develpoped in the minds of those latter followers who had a need to make Jesus the man into Jesus the Christ or Savior. Unfortunately they based their proofs on the false Gnostic gospels of the Nag Hammadi finds. They also held a bias toward miracles and the supernatural. They held to a Naturalist presupposition - God did not do these things and Jesus never did them either. With this bias it became the job of Critics to strip the Bible of any supernatural elements. But what exactly are the Nag Hammadi Gospels and what is Gnosticism?
Nag Hammadi Gospels and Gnosticism
Credibility of the Gnostic Gospels: A Review taken from Norman Geisler's, 'Baker's Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics'.
The best way to evaluate the credibility of these gospels is by comparison to the New Testament gospels, which the same critics have grave doubts about accepting. Against the canonical gospels, the Gnostic gospels come up seriously short. LATE WRITINGS: The attested dates for the Canonical gospels (those accepted as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are no later than 60-100. Gnostic gospels appeared bearly a century later. O.C. Edwards asserts "as historical reconstructions there is no way that the two can claim equal credentials". HISTORICAL WORTH: The earliest Christians meticulously preserved Jesus' words and deeds. The gospel writers were close to the eyewitnesses and pursued the facts (Luke 1:1-4). There is evidence that the gospel writers were honest reporters. They also present the same overall picture of Jesus. NEW TESTAMENT CANON: Contrary to the critics, the NT Canon with gospels and most of Paul's Epistles was formed by the end of the First century. The books in dispute, the Antelegomena, have no apologetic effect on the argument for the reliability of the historical material used to establish the Deity of Christ. The New Testament itself reveals a collection of books in the first century. Peter speaks of having Paul's Epistles (2Pet. 3: 15-16), equating them with Old Testament Scripture, Paul had access to Luke's gospel, quoting it (10:7) in I Timothy 5:18. Beyond the New Testament, canonical lists support the existence of a New Testament Canon. Indeed, all the Gospels and Paul's basic Epistles are represented on these lists. Even the heretical canon of Marcion (ca. 140) accepted the gospel of Luke and 10 of Paul's Epistles.
Support of Church Fathers
A common body of books was cited by Fathers in the second century. This includes the six books crucial to the historicity of Christ and his resurrection, the gospels, Acts, and I Corinthians. Clement of Rome cited the Gospels in 95 (Corinthians , 13, 42,46). Ignatius (ca. 110-115) quaoted Luke 24:39 (smyrnaeans 3). Polycarp (ca. 115) cites all synoptic gospels (Philipians 2,7). The Didache (early second Century) cites the synoptic gospels (1,3,8,9,15-16). The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 135) cites Matthew 22:14. Papias (Oracles, ca. 125-140) speaks of Matthew, Mark (Chronicaling Peter), and John (last) who wrote the Gospels. He says three times that Mark made no errors. The Fathers connsidered the Gospels and Paul's Epistles to be on par with the inspired Old Testament (cf. Clement's Corinthians 47; Ignatius's Ephesians ; to Polycarp [1,5]; and Polycarp's Philippians [1,3-4,6,12]}. The Fathers vouched for the accuracy of Canonical Gospel's in the early Second century. This is LONG BEFORE the Gnostic gospels were written in the LATE second century. Gnostic Resurrection Accounts: There is no real evidence that the so=called "Q" (Quelle, source) document posited by the critics ever existed. It is an imaginary reconstruction, so the allegation that it has nothing about the resurrection is pointless.
The Gospel of Thomas:
The Gospel of Thomas does exist, even though it is from the LATE second Century. Nonetheless, contrary to the critics who support this composition, it acknowledges Jesus' resurrection. In fact, it is the living, post death (34:25-27; 45:1-16) Christ who allegedly speaks in it. True, it does not stress the resurrection, but this is to be expected because it is primarily a "sayings" source rather than a historical narration. Further, the Gnostic theological bias against matter would downplay bodily resurrection.
Earliest Christian Creeds:
Since the critics acknowledge the authenticity of I Corinthians 15, which is dated ca. 55-56 A.D.., it is impossible to deny the hsitoricity of the resurrection. This is only twenty-tow or twenty-three years after Jesus died (I Cor 15:6). What is more, I Corinthians 15:1 alludes to a possible creed confessing the death and resurrection of Christ that would be even earlier. Even on the minimal assumption that the creed was ten or twelve years old, that would place it within 10 to 12 years of the events themselves. Few ancient events have this immediate contemporary verification.
The evidence for the authenticity of the Gnostic gospels does not compare with that for the New Testament. The NT is a First Century book. The Gospel of Thomas is a mid-second century book, The New Testament is verified by numerous lines of evidence, including other references in the New Testament, early cononical lists, thousands of citations by the early Fathers, and established earlier dates for the Gospels."
Norman Geisler: Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Pgs 520-21
As you may note from this information, the PBS interviews were citing the Thomas Gosple often which is very late dated and was long ago rejected as 'scripture'. Much of today's liberal scholarship makes the mistake of ignoring the fact that the Gonstic literature (Nag Hammadi) was long ago researched and rejected as NOT being on an equal level with accepted Cononical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). They are not presenting anything new - the Jesus Seminar folks, which are often the ones called on to comment, know full-well that Gnostic Lituerature was well known in the early Church and onward and was rejected for good reason)Although the evidence is overwhelming against liberal scholarship in this area they continue to cite sources that are simply un-authentic. It is also a common bias with Liberal scholarship to reject Supernatural reality in favor of Naturalism. This began with the rise of Higher Criticism which claimed the Books of Moses were not written by moses but four (or more) sources (J,E,D,P). Yet much of Higher Criticism's theory has collapsed with more evidence proving the authenticity of the Bible through such modern research into Manucript evidence and archeological finds. The anti-supernatural bias and presuppositions of Liberal and Progressive theology are simply unfounded given the facts.
It is important to make clear the facts to the public since, many Christians and unchurched may be lead to accept these broadcasts and their one-sided bias as fact. It is not the end of the story and one should be enncouraged to research the facts from all perspectives and see which stand the test of scrutiny. I am sure an HONEST search will lead to a rewarding end in greater faith in the Bible and in Jesus Christ who is all he claimed to be! Praise God for truth which will not be darkened by the world's willing blindness.
I would suggest reading materials which present another side to the topic of 'Who is Jesus'. Norm Geisler has many good books: 'I don't have enough faith to be an atheist' is one of them. Josh McDowell: 'Evidence that Demands a verdict' and many others such as 'Reasons for Faith' by Geisler and Miester. Check out web cites as well that focus on a defense of Christian Faith such as 'Stand To Reason' ministries , 'Lion and Lamb Ministries', Perry Stone and Manifest broadcast on MCTV. There are loads of supportive and scholarly materials for your taking !!! Check out the Real Jesus !
|First United Church of Christ - Copyright 2005-2007|