I Pledge Allegiance to the…

Let me start with a simple question for my fellow followers of Christ that live in America. Are you an American Christian or a Christian American?

In Luke 20:19-26, the scribes and the chief priests are trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would indict him as a rebel to the Roman Empire. They do this by sending some spies that ask Jesus if they should pay taxes or not. Upon asking, Jesus asked them a simple question in return, “Whose likeness and inscription does [this coin] have?” Based upon whose likeness and inscription was on the coin (Caesar’s), Jesus says to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

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So, just think about that a moment. Jesus is saying that because this coin bears the mark or the image of Caesar on it, they should give those things to Caesar because they are his. And immediately following this instruction Jesus says to give to God the things that are God’s. So, that creates a question: what things are God’s? Well, besides everything since He’s the creator and owner of the Universe, what would Jesus be referring to here? Based upon what made the coin Caesar’s, Jesus seems to be referring to the things that bear the mark and image of God on them. What bears the mark and image of God on them? You. You do. Going all the way back to Genesis we find in the creation story that humans are created “in the image of God”, and so when Jesus says to give Caesar his stuff and God his stuff what Jesus is really saying is “Give to Caesar this money, but give to God your entire life.”

Jesus’ teaching is that they are not chiefly inhabitants of the Roman empire, rather they are primarily inhabitants of a body and soul made in the image of God.

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The Jews would have given to Caesar regretfully, not willingly. They were not the majority group of the Roman empire, they were a tiny group amongst a vast empire that was hard pressed by the emperor, yearning for the day the Kingdom of the Messiah would overthrow said empire. And that’s precisely what just happened in our passage—the Kingdom of the Messiah placed authority over the Roman Empire.

How is paying Caesar overthrowing the Roman Empire? When Jesus says that they should give themselves to God and give the money to Caesar, the implication is that all allegiance that they have belongs to God. Caesar’s authority apart from God’s is meaningless, and their allegiance to Caesar goes so far as their allegiance to God will allow. It’s a subordinate mock. A humble revolution. A meek yet challenging response to Caesar, “Okay, I’ll give you what’s yours, but only because I am God’s.” When Jesus instructed the Jews to give Caesar his stuff and God His stuff, it was a wink-wink-nudge-nudge to all who choose to listen to Jesus. A suggestion to each of us that His Kingdom takes precedence.

I wonder how often we Christians think about our American citizenship that way? It would be far easier to make the mental separation if we weren’t so comfortable and liberated in our country. Yet I must dig deep. I must ask the hard questions. Do I find my liberty first in the Bill of Rights or first in the liberating power of Jesus Christ? Do I give my allegiance to King Jesus first or to the American institution first? Do I submit to the American authorities because I agree with them or because I serve a risen Savior that calls me to obey? Do I support the American system because I like it and it helps me get what I want or because God’s will in some way calls me to support it? When America is ridiculed, do I take personal offense more than when the Kingdom of God is ridiculed? Do I raise up the Kingdom of America as the ideal for all other nations, or do I raise up the Kingdom of God as the Kingdom that all should give allegiance to?

Your-Choice

Am I an American Christian or am I a Christian American? I hope and pray that I am the latter and that I pledge allegiance to the Reign and Authority of Jesus Christ: my Liberator, my Creator, my Savior, my King.

The Day I Realized I was a Racist

I was sitting in my ninth grade Biology class one day, thinking about my mindset and the way I was feeling at that time. It was not too long before this day that my father had to have a chit-chat with me. My older brother and I had gotten into a particularly intense conflict, and my dad had sat me down to talk to me about anger. I remember pretty clearly my dad talking to me about how my anger had become a real problem and challenged me to look into the Bible to see what God has to say about anger and the damage born from it. He reminded me that God was not pleased with uncontrolled anger and challenged me to do some thinking about this, and it was because of that challenge and loving provocation by my father that I was thinking about my mindset in that Biology class. Thankfully, my father had forced me to become introspective about my feelings and my attitude at that time because if it weren’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have noticed that I was a racist.

Class had just begun or was just about to begin, and I was realizing that I was extremely frustrated. I was mad and bitter at someone, and I was just noticing it. In my school at Oxford, AL, during that time, ninth graders were separated into their own building— the Freshmen Academy is what it was called. The only people we interacted with were other ninth graders except for at extra-curriculars, so I know I was angry with some other guy in my grade. I also remember it happened in the stair-well during the class exchange. However, I don’t remember what and I don’t remember who. What I do remember is that it was a he, and that he was black.

When I realized that I was angry at this person, something struck me about the events that had taken place. His being black had played a role in my anger towards him. I realized that whatever it was, I would not have been so impatient if the person were white. I realized that I was quick to consider this individual less intelligent, less peaceful, less capable of good, and ultimately less worthy of my patience, and it was because he was black. It’s as if whatever he had done or said ignited my unknown bias, prejudice, and stereotyping causing me to be less patient than I would have been with a white person. I didn’t respond to this individual with words of hate or anger. I didn’t respond with any action whatsoever. Yet, I knew in that moment sitting in Biology class that I had a problem, and that problem was racism.

 

I wish I could say that it was on that day that the racism in my heart and in my thoughts was destroyed. That I never said another racist thing, that I never had less patience for a black person than a white person, that I never thought ill of someone that was black more vehemently and more quickly than I did a white person. However, it was probably a few years down the road before I really started to do something about it, and even when I began to work on it, it was even a few years after that before I was less prone to such things.

 

Unfortunately, when I had gotten better at not being racist, I thought I had made it.

 

It was still several years after that (almost to the present day in 2020) that I realized there was still work to do. It took gaining a better understanding of Jesus, His teachings, and His Apostles’ teachings before I began to realize that it wasn’t just good enough to NOT be sinful in that way or to NOT think in that sinful way, but I had to choose TO think and act in a way pointing in the complete opposite direction of the sin—towards Jesus. I had done well to become not racist in many ways, but I had failed to become anti-racist in hardly any form. I had overcome many racist mindsets and attitudes, but I still struggle(d) with denying my privilege, ignoring their plight, and ignoring the painful results of actions coming from good/benign intent. I had failed to exchange my sinful partiality for actions and thoughts that would actually benefit them such as asking the hard questions like why the statistics are true and how I could be more intentional concerning my engagement with them. I want(ed) to do better.

 

The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 29:7 that the righteous will consider the cause of the poor. Because of this passage and many more like it concerning the poor, the needy, the oppressed, and the broken, I am more and more realizing (and I hope to help those who choose to read this also realize) that I am acting contrary to the nature of God when I choose to ignore the plight of other humans. I am sinning, not just against that person, but against our God when I care not to hear or do something about the cries of the oppressed. We can’t react violently and take vengeance into our hands, but we can do something. We can recognize the generosity we have been shown by God through His creation and through Jesus, and in our gratitude and faith, we can choose to be generous to our neighbor. We can actively look for opportunities to serve those who the system has failed to take care of. We can purpose within ourselves to find methods and means to show hurting people the love of God, not just by giving them Jesus (which is of utmost importance), but by giving LIKE Jesus. We can recognize the privilege we have to know Jesus, we can recognize the blessings we enjoy because of Jesus, and we can make our mission His mission.

 

Luke 4:18-19  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

Jesus: Master and Liberator

There are some choices that people never get to make but are made for them in one way or another. Like how you had no choice in the decision to be conceived and born. Your vote didn’t matter, it just happened. Or how we don’t get to decide who our biological parents are, and this decision (or rather lack thereof), has lasting impressions on us due to genetic fortune or misfortune! Most interesting of choices we do not get to make is one found in the Bible, and that choice is whether or not you will be a slave.

In Romans 6:16, Paul declares that everyone falls under the category of being a slave. You are either a slave of sin and death or a slave of obedience and righteousness. This seems pretty crude, and Paul acknowledges that saying he’s using this analogy because we are weak. So basically because we wouldn’t get it otherwise! Even though being called a slave isn’t very fun, Paul delivers good news in this discussion of slavery.

One of the masters provides life.

Unsurprisingly, this good doesn’t really sound all that great initially. I mean, we really hate being called slaves and the idea of slavery. I think Paul is aware of this trouble. In 1Corinthains 7:22 Paul is telling slaves not to worry about being slaves if they are in Christ because they are free in Christ. However, he says that the people who are not slaves and are free are Christ’s slaves. So he obviously understands the tension concerning being a slave, but not only does this not address the tension, it also is confusing because some it says some people are free in Christ and some people are slaves in Christ. Let’s see if Jesus can clear this up for us.

Confused

Jesus said in Luke 4:18 that His mission was to come to preach the Gospel for the purpose of setting free the captives and the oppressed. Moreover, Jesus came as a source of truth and to deliver truth, and He says in John 8:32 that the truth shall set you free. However, Jesus also said in John 12:26 that it is the one that serves Him that will be honored by God, and Jesus also said in Luke 9:23-24 that to have the life Jesus offers means giving up your life to Him and denying yourself. So, did Jesus come to free us to enslave us?

Both!

I think the answer to this paradoxical situation is most easily seen when we come back to the crude analogy from Romans 6 with these other passages in mind. What we see in Romans 6 is that every person who is in Christ Jesus is simultaneously enslaved and set free. We are enslaved to a loving, gentle, and compassionate Lord named Jesus who wants to offer us life, peace, comfort, and… freedom.

Set free

That freedom that Jesus is offering (at the cost of being His servant) is a freedom from sin and death. A freedom from impurity and lawlessness. Furthermore, from the Gospels we see that the freedom Jesus offers is a freedom from the cares of this life that can chew us up and spit us out. It is a freedom that stems from our knowledge that the One we have chosen to serve will care for us. Ultimately, Jesus is offering is to liberate us from the very things that drag us down, ruin lives, and destroy homes. He is liberating us from fear, anxiety, self-centered behaviors, injustice, and a lack of purpose in life. We must only choose to serve Him instead of ourselves.

 

The thing about this freedom/servant duality that comes with Jesus that makes it even more perplexing (yet all the more compelling), is that Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything He hasn’t done Himself. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says that He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. So when Jesus was walking about on this planet, Jesus did so as a servant. He was not just a servant to those people, but we know that he came as a servant to all of mankind because He says He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Not only did Jesus come to this earth and choose to serve mankind, but even while we serve Him today, He continues to serve us. The book of Hebrews spends chapters 4-10 discussing how Jesus Christ is the High Priest for us today. Without getting into the details, that is essentially teaching us that Jesus is serving us each day as an intercessor: serving us so that we can continually and everlastingly reap the benefits of the work He did while serving mankind on earth. So not only is Jesus asking us to serve Him and simultaneously offering us freedom, He has chosen to make Himself our servant in the process as well.

Jesus as servant king

This paradoxical situation fits in quite well with many different dualities that are presented in Jesus.

The creator who became the created.

The innocent criminal.

The vessel of God’s blessing by taking on a curse.

The restorer of life by going through death.

All of these dualities mentioned and more speak to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how all things and all people can find meaning and purpose in Him. And the duality we’ve seen in this post does well.

Jesus: our Master that Liberates and Serves us.

Jesus is the Lord calling all people out of servitude into a new kind of servitude. He is calling us from a service to destruction to a service of life. He is calling us to a servitude to a merciful and just King who made Himself a servant to all of mankind so that we could enjoy peace, comfort, freedom from destructive behavior, and freedom from death. We may not get to choose whether or not we are a slave, but we can choose who we are a slave to.

Choose your master. Choose wisely.

Your-Choice

Being Christian During the Political Season

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Go on Facebook or Twitter and spend more than 10 minutes and you’ll find political posts. Some of them are solid satire that are good for laughs. Some of them are serious and honest objections to political stances. However, the vast majority of political posts are found in the comment section of political posts. There you often find a battle raging with 2 to 10 people giving there two cents on a given issue, or you find 2 to 10 people boosting each other’s egos because of the brilliance of their political ideologies. These battle zone comment threads can go on and on, gaining in rage or arrogance and never coming close to an agreement. With a picture so bleak, what is a Christian to do in the political arena? Never engage? Never dispute? Always give an answer? To consider such questions, I would like to address three different Biblical principles to keep in mind during the political season.

 

1. Jesus Has Already Won

1Corinthians 15:57 teaches us that the greatest victory to be won (the victory over sin and death) was won through Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus that we can all be blessed by the Father, and it is because of Jesus that the whole world can be blessed. What relevance does that have with politics? Everything! How?

Every action we ever make should be done in light of the victory that was won through Jesus, and Jesus is the only sufficient answer to every problem we face.

Political discussions and debates are nothing more than band-aids on bullet wounds. Sure, various political policies might be helpful, but it is only Jesus that can offer sufficient solutions to life’s real problems. Moreover, we can debate and argue for months about who the best President to bless this country is, but the more wrapped up in that debate we become, the less we choose to point people to the One that has already provided immense blessings to the country—to the whole world.

The truth is that we can get so bogged down in arguments about best policies or the best political candidate that we forget to remind people who the real King is, who the real Liberator is, and who the world’s Only Hope really is. His name is Jesus, and we need to be more diligent in pointing people to Him than to our political ideology. Consider this question: what good would it do for the person we are talking to if we convince them of good economic theory, but fail to convince them of Jesus? Shouldn’t we at least attempt the latter before the former?

 

 

2. Political Topics are Doubtful Things

Romans 14:1 teaches Christians to be wary of debates over doubtful things or matters of opinion. Maybe it’s just me, but if there’s one thing that definitely seems doubtful and opinionated, it’s which sinful politician Jesus wants me to be voting for. I realize not all people are all that bad, but in my short lifetime, voting has been about choosing the lesser of two (or maybe more) evils. No politician has it all right, no politician is Jesus, and no politician is representing Jesus completely. So, if there’s one thing I can conclude from this, arguing over politics is arguing over doubtful things.

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Paul is warning the Romans and by extension us about the dangers of such arguments, and from this we can conclude:

Political arguments can weaken the faith of already weak in faith brothers and sisters in Christ.

We need to pay attention to this possibility and choose our language carefully. Saying things like, “Well any real Christian will vote for…” (both major parties say this) could seriously wound those who are weak in faith and give them serious doubts. Just arguing about certain issues can weaken the faith of some Christians. We need to be aware of this dilemma and be wise in our choice of political debate.

 

3. Grace and Truth

The last Biblical principle I want to address is the delicate balance of grace and truth. John 1:14 says that Jesus was full of grace and truth, and we need to seek to have that in our lives as well. Jesus taught that sometimes the truth would be like a sword that divides families (Matthew 10:34-39), and Paul references becoming one’s enemy because he told them the truth (Galatians 4:16). So, there are times when saying the truth is going to make someone despise you and separate themselves from you.

However, we need to be diligent that it is the truth that creates division, and not our lack of grace: bad tone, bad behavior, bad attitude, poor word choice, etc.

Jeff Stahler

Jeff Stahler

 

In 2Corinthians 6:3-10 Paul talks about how, for the sake of having a blameless ministry they seek to not offend. Clearly Paul was bold in his writings and was bold in the truth, but he also went to great efforts (in all situations) to be pure, knowledgeable, longsuffering, kind, and loving. Paul understood the importance of delivering the truth without offending (when possible). Likewise, we need to be especially careful that when we say what we think is true, and people are offended by us, that we don’t arrogantly assume that it was the truth that offended them as opposed to our presentation of it. We need to be honest with ourselves and with our methods so that we can ensure that people are drawn to Christ or repulsed by Him, but never us.

Lastly, when we are discussing politics,

one of the worst things we could do is make our political perspective of such great importance that we argue for it more than the Gospel, or by defending it cause someone to not trust us with answers concerning Jesus.

And when we make blanket statements about a particular party like “Democrats are idiots”, or “Republicans don’t care about the poor”, we run the risk of ostracizing the individual that belongs to that party and we make our job of evangelizing nearly impossible. When we get so fixated on what we think to be true politically that we don’t carefully weigh our words in a political discussion, we make our job of effectively reaching souls immensely difficult— a hinderance we should all be avoiding.

 

asking the right questions

 

As you may have noticed, I didn’t answer all the questions I started out with. I’m not trying to. However, I am trying to get each of you (and most definitely myself) to think deeply about your interaction on social media concerning politics. Ask yourself some important questions: Will I damage this person’s faith by having this conversation? If I say this, will onlookers be offended by me or the truth? Am I making politics more important than allegiance to Christ? Who am I serving by having this conversation, myself, my political party, or Jesus?

 

Work, work, work..?

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This world has gotten pretty crazy pretty fast. People are getting sick. People are going without work. People are afraid of losing work. People are afraid of the stability of economy at all levels! And as typically happens for me when things are going wrong, I have begun to reflect on the sorts of questions people might be asking themselves concerning jobs and finances.

What am I going to do for a job?

Will I like the job I have?

How much money will my job make me?

How many hours will I have to work?

What’s my budget going to look like with this job?

However, with the instability I see around me, another question has entered my mind:

Why do we work?

I’m not really sure if I’ve ever thought about this for more than 10 minutes, after all, work is just so fundamental to our society, the why to work has never really been something I’ve thought about. However, some answers to this question came to mind pretty quickly.

To pay the bills, duh!

To take care of my family.

To ‘treat yo self!’

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I think these answers are certainly worth considering as good answers, but as I continued to contemplate on this, some wisdom from the Scriptures came to mind that I think is worth considering.

1. To Care for God’s Creation

Turning to the first page of the Bible, we find a story concerning God’s creation of the earth and humans. In this story we can find many purposes and plans that God had in his creation, and when God created humans, in Genesis 1:26-28 it says:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

When God created humans, he created them to “have dominion… over all the earth,” desiring for us to be fruitful managers over the animals that He created. More than that, God apparently wanted humans to care for the plant life He had given them, as it says in Genesis 2:15:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Apparently, while we may often despise work and having to labor for something, it is ultimately the very thing we were created to do. We were intended to be productive creatures that put forth effort on this earth to carefully manage the rest of God’s creation. This careful management was to extend from the plant life we take for granted to the coffee beans we take extra care to produce efficiently and effectively. This diligence was to extend from the animals we really can’t stand to the domesticated animals we care for with great passion. We were created with a purpose in mind, and how is this purpose fulfilled?  Work. And that is an answer as to why we work. We work to carefully and fruitfully manage God’s creation.

 

2. To Care for Others

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It should be no surprise that if God created humans with the purpose of carefully managing the rest of His creation through work that He also would want humans to work for the purpose of taking care of other humans. Let’s consider two passages of Scripture here:

1 Timothy 5:8— But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 

Ephesians 4:28— Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

The first passage really doesn’t tell us anything too surprising—you need to work to care for your family. The one surprising piece might be the aggressive language involved (if you don’t work to provide for your family, you have denied the faith!) The second passage though is one that I find to be extremely compelling and convicting.

Sometimes we gripe and complain about work. We hate that have to wake up to work, or we hate that we have to stay awake to work. We hate the wages we get. We are annoyed at our coworkers. We can’t stand our boss. Yet, amidst the complaints we may have about our jobs is a reason to be glad:

Through our work we have the opportunity help those who are in need.

Better yet, we are supposed to work with the intention of not serving self but serving those who are in need! I find this to be a radically different way to think about working than the mindset that produces all the complaints about work:

Our job is itself an expression of how we love our neighbor as ourselves.

After all, it is through our jobs that we acquire the means to care, not simply for our own family, but all who are in need. I think that most of my life I was aware of the purpose of working to care for my family, but that additional purpose of caring for those in need was really lost to me. (At the same time though, it just seems so obvious!)

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So, my encouragement to each of you as you think about your (potential) jobs and the financial (in)stability around us is simple: contemplate on the reason you are going to go to work. In a world where everyone is out to serve themselves, and in a world where people don’t think about the needs of people who are not their relatives, let us choose to work with the intentions God has in mind for us. Let’s choose to work for the purpose of carefully and wisely managing God’s creation. Let’s choose to work to meet the needs of our neighbors who are without jobs, without support, or without hope of financial security. Let’s choose to serve.

How Math Increased My Faith

I once had someone tell me that the more I learned about math, the less I would believe in God. I’d like to share with you just how wrong that individual was, and why.

Learning math gave me a closer look at logic (in its purest form) than most any field allows. One of the things that learning math led me to see is that our knowledge is founded upon axioms. Axioms are essentially claims that are accepted as true without deduction or proof. (e.g one axiom in Euclidean Geometry—the one you learn in High School— is that parallel lines don’t intersect. This has not proof, it is just accepted as true.) This tells us that all our knowledge is founded upon accepted – not proven— claims. As you may expect, this is a point of contention for many (e.g wanting a justification for claims, but not having a justification for the foundation of all claims). However, through the study of Mathematics I have concluded that it ought not to be a point of contention when viewed in a proper light.

Some, in their attempt to settle the contention, have decided that there is a need to change the definition of “truth”. Since axioms are essentially claims that work and have not been shown to be wrong, some have decided that “truth” should be redefined to “that which works”. There are countless counter examples for this claim that lead us to say, “Well that was true then, but it isn’t true now.” This claim as preposterous as it is silly since it leaves us hopeless of meaningful progress in our search for knowledge.

Another set of people tried to settle the problem of axioms by redefining what it means to “know” something. For years the standard for one to “know” something was that it was a “justified true belief”. This definition combined with the issue of axioms caused many to change the concept of knowledge to something that is only in the negative, claiming that we cannot actually know that which is true, we can only show that something is false. This escapes the problems they found (e.g having a system of knowledge based upon justification that can’t be justified), but only uncovered a contradiction in the system. The contradiction is that once someone proves a claim false, the negation of the claim is simultaneously proven true. Thus, we can prove things true. The answer to this is to accept that we can prove both true and false, since they’re equivalent. (Much of this was done and said regarding science and only being able to prove good theories false. I have no qualms with this.)

These attempts to twist intuitive understandings of knowledge and truth are, in my opinion, unnecessary. In my math studies, I have come to conclude that we can go back to our intuitive understanding of truth and knowledge, we must only do two things extra: not be afraid of belief, and be humble.

Before I defend myself, I’d like to explain what I mean by being afraid of belief. Many people are afraid of saying that they have beliefs. They seem to be afraid to admit that belief plays any role in any valid system of knowledge. This, however, is unfounded beyond their cultural perception of how belief seems to work. In other words, beliefs can have negative ramifications in the pursuit of knowledge, and they have shown that in our culture. For that reason (or perhaps others), they are afraid to admit belief. This however, is not reasonable, for belief is not inherently fallacious. Rather, prideful belief is fallacious.

So when I propose that we stick to a more traditional understanding of truth and knowledge with the addition of humility, what I am proposing is accepting that axioms are beliefs, and we must be humble enough to admit that fact. There is nothing invalid or illogical about stating a belief. What is illogical, is holding to a belief when evidence or proof has shown said belief to be wrong. That is clinging to belief in a prideful way, not being humble enough to admit fault or have an open mind.

This solution to the contention of axioms is the most organic in my opinion. It feels intuitive, it feels familiar, and it really makes sense with no contradictions awaiting. For instance, I could say that I know B because it logically deduces from A. And then to say I know A axiomatically (i.e to say I believe A to be true because I have been given no reason to think otherwise) has no flaw unless I am unwilling to admit that I really just believe A- I don’t know it in any provable sense. Thus, I believe we can create a rational system for obtaining knowledge in an intuitive and open-minded way, if we only accept belief as okay and humility as necessary. To provide an example of the logical deduction from A to B with A just being belief, consider the following situation: My axiom A will be that if two statements contradict, they both cannot be true. My deduction B is that “2 is even” and “2 is not even” are two statements in which both cannot be true. I know B is true because it deduces from A; however, I don’t really have any proof for A. I believe A to be a true law of logic because it works and I’ve been given no reason to think otherwise. Therefore, my knowledge of B being true is completely dependent upon my belief that A is true. This is an easy example of how this rational system works, as it helps us see that even the most basic truths are dependent upon a logical law that is not proven, just accepted because it hasn’t failed us yet. Moreover, this rational system that I developed through the rationale and exposure to logic brought about by Mathematics is precisely what increased my faith.

When I realized that everything I think is true—EVERYTHING— is nothing more than a deduction from belief, I realized that faith is essential for any system of knowledge. Realizing this caused me to not be afraid of saying and admitting that I believed in God or that I believed the Bible. After all, I could honestly do nothing more than say “I believe…” about any given topic! This acceptance of belief as necessary opened the door to two things: a more open-minded search for knowledge and a deeper search for reasons why my belief in God was not unfounded. That is, I began to use other beliefs that most accept as true to deduce or infer that the Bible is indeed reliable and true. This process was a complex one and not at all the focus of this writing, but without Mathematics, the scrutiny and rationale required in that process would have been much more difficult. Furthermore, without Mathematics, I would still be afraid to admit belief. Thus, Mathematics played an essential role in developing not only a new framework for growing in knowledge, but in developing a greater understanding of how knowledge is founded upon faith in some object or statement.

The big so-what I want all to get is that beliefs are not inherently illogical, and Mathematics showed me that. If one will simply allow beliefs and remain humble about the said acceptance of beliefs, one can explore different areas of knowledge and grow in extraordinary ways.

Who are You the Light For?

You know how when you drive down the road at night, sometimes you’ll see this really bright light off to the side somewhere that captures your attention? At least for me, if I’m driving at night and some bright light is lit up somewhere, I can’t help but notice it. Typically, it’s some advertisement or maybe a sign for a store to signify its placement; regardless, it’s a good marketing strategy because it gets my attention. By getting my attention, the owner of the sign has now told me that such-and-such goodies are to be bought or found at such-and-such location. Without this really bright light, the function of the sign would be so much less effective, and would be less likely of showing me where I can find the goods of the organization.  So it’s really a great idea by the owners of these stores or services to have a sign with such a bright light.

This tangible example really helps us understand what Jesus meant when he said, You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mat. 5:14-16 NKJV) Jesus wanted us to be like this bright sign that pointed out the location of an organization or where to buy some goods or services. Jesus wants us to shine brightly to those around us; a light that advertises with full functionality that God is to be found in such-and-such place (the Gospel) and provides such-and-such goodies (freedom, life, joy, comfort, peace, love, and salvation to name a few). He explains that we shine brightly to those around us because they see our good works. So in order to be the effective bright light, we need to actively portray the good works Christ has called us to have. Therefore, we should be actively pursuing righteousness in all that we do in order to be the light that points others to Christ.

After concluding the above, I began to ponder on this passage as it relates in my own life. I began to think about this idea of being a light, and I realized that I am almost always a light. I shine bright, I often distract by my brightness, and people really notice me at times. I am the light that is not hidden. I am the light that is on the lamp-stand. I am the really bright sign on the side of the road that catches your eye. However, I have found that I am often the light causing people to see my good works and glorify Dustin Gaskins who is on earth. This is where I fall short so often (not to mention when I do things incorrectly), and I know many others have as well. I can shine so brightly and let everyone see the things I do, but I do it often the wrong way and even more often for the wrong reason. I have found that I am the light for myself, when I ought to be a light for Jesus and for God’s glory, not my own.

A phrase that I’ve seen popping up in places is that we should do good for goodness sake. As I’ve come to know God and to know His will, I can confidently say that God wants that. God wants us to do good for goodness sake. We shouldn’t do good for the sake of ourselves, but we should do good to the glory of God who is the essence of goodness. The real struggle though is the battle with doing good things and then breaking your arm off patting yourself on the back. The real struggle is to not do good for the sake of being seen doing good. There is a real struggle to do good for goodness sake rather than for your own sake. However, in applying Jesus’ teachings and seeking to live the life of Christ, we must cease to be a light for ourselves, and become a light for God and the goodness that He is. Otherwise, we have made the Gospel about us, when it is really about Jesus and how He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one goes to the Father except through him (Jn. 14:6).

So in your own life you need to consider the question at hand: who are you the light for? Are you constantly shining like that sign, getting people’s attention for yourself, or are you that bright light capturing the attention of others, pointing them in the direction of Christ? We have been called to be the light through our actions, and we need to ensure that our intentions behind our good actions are not to be the light for ourselves, but to be the light for God so that all glory is given to Him.

(For more verses to encourage who you intend to be the light for is God, consider the following: Ephesians 2:10; Mt. 6:1-7; Colossians 3:17; 1Corinthians 10:31)

Christianity and Human Sacrifice (Are they Relatable?)

A comment that can often be heard among those without the Christian faith is an unfavorable comment on the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of many. In particular, a negative perspective that can be found is one that points to Christianity as a religion of human sacrifice. One such person that makes a comment like this one is Dr. Sam Harris who said that “Christianity is actually a cult of human sacrifice.” Never mind the use of an emotionally charged word like “cult”, let’s think about the truth value of the claim that Christianity is about human sacrifice. In my estimation, the claim is made for two reasons. The first reason is to degrade Christianity as a faith without the central tenet of love it promotes, and the second reason is to make Christianity look like other religions that are often viewed as very primitive due to reasons such as human sacrifice. These two reasons explain why the rationalization seems so aggressive, but I suppose there is a third possible reason without such negative intentions: the person actually thinks Christianity is founded in human sacrifice and is simply expressing their opinion. Regardless of the combination of the three reasons found above, I’d like to look at how the third reason is incorrect, and thus the preceding two are incorrect.

When I first heard this I thought it was a very realistic problem for Christianity. It actually left me wondering. At first, I explained it away by saying that Christianity was actually the religion that ended much sacrifice. This is true I think. Beforehand, the Jews sacrificed animals every day, and now there was no need for them to do so because Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. Also, there were a lot of other religions requiring sacrifice that were called to believe in Christ, and thus all the converted people would cease to sacrifice. In essence, there was now a religion for all people that required no sacrifice because there was one sacrifice that was good enough; thus, less sacrificing was made. This seemed like a good answer to the problem; however, it wasn’t. It didn’t answer the problem of Jesus being a human sacrifice; it just showed that the end result was desirable. Thus, the uneasy feeling prolonged: until now.

The faith that Jesus Christ lived on this earth, suffered, died, and resurrected seems at first glance to be about a human being sacrificed, but it is truly not so. Moreover, the reason why it is not so is profound and pregnant with implications and answers. The reason why is (to my surprise) actually quite simple: Christianity is not a faith about human sacrifice, it is a faith about God sacrifice. The problem of human sacrifice arises when you read the story of Jesus through the lens that Jesus was merely a man. However, Jesus was not merely a man. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1-14). We read John 3:16 and think about Jesus as the Son of God, causing us to think of Jesus as merely a man, but the Son of God is Himself God in the flesh! Thus, the suffering and death of Jesus is not characteristic of human sacrifice, but God sacrifice. Thus, the third reason is wrong: Christianity is founded in God sacrifice—not human sacrifice.

Therefore, we can see clearly how the central tenet of love in Christianity is not degraded but empowered. This is so, because we can clearly see the love that God offers in that He did not ask for a human to be sacrificed, but offered a piece of Himself to be sacrificed. Consider Philippians 2:5-8 in which it is found that Jesus did not consider equality with God a think he lacked, and regardless of his status as a deity, took on the form of a man (a servant!), and took on the death of the cross. So Jesus in the form of God sacrificed Himself by becoming a man on earth rather than God in heaven, sacrificed Himself by being a servant rather than a king, and sacrificed Himself by allowing the humans he created (John 1:1-14) to kill Him. Moreover, Jesus sacrificed Himself by allowing our evil deeds to be placed on Him, removing Him from the presence of God completely (Mark 15:34). Does this sound like the sacrifice of a human to please God to you? Not to me. To me this sounds like the loving sacrifice of God to please Himself and us (1John 4:9-18). Moreover, this sounds like a display of the central tenet of Christianity: love.

And alas we can see that the sacrifice of Jesus does not make Christianity appear to be like other primitive religions, but actually causes it to stand apart. It stands apart as a religion that does not have human sacrifice, but has God sacrifice. It stands apart as a religion that does not just tell us to love, but shows us how to love. It stands apart as a religion in which the God does not merely say He loves us, but shows us that He loves us. Thus, Dr. Sam Harris, I reject your notion that Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice. Instead, I submit that Christianity is a religion of love (1Timothy 1:5; James 1:27).

The Crippling Effect of Philippians 4:13

One of the most well known verses throughout America is Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” From teenagers’ bios on Twitter to a flowery picture on Instagram, this verse is posted relentlessly. However, the frequent use of this verse may have caused it to lose its original intent, and can point to a flaw seen throughout Christians of every age: ego-centrism.

 

The use most common form you will see this verse take is to back up the claim that one can ace any test, become a famous rapper, become an astronaut, and/or etc. Now, I’m not claiming that you shouldn’t pursue your dreams, and that you can’t accomplish your goals. You can ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you that I thoroughly believe that anyone can do nearly anything given enough hard work, patience, and well-placed stubbornness. However, this doesn’t appear to be the original intent of this verse, and using it this way creates ego-centrism. The flaw of using this verse inappropriately creates a focus on the physical, and the character flaw that comes with it (which is seen throughout America) is a focus on what the world offers you rather than what you can offer the world. When putting Phil. 4:13 in context and observing who the author is, you begin to get a different picture than the portrayal that you can be very successful (in a physical sense).

 

Php 4:9-17 ESV  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  (10)  I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  (11)  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  (12)  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  (13)  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  (14)  Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.  (15)  And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.  (16)  Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.  (17)  Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

 

Being Content with Nothing

In Paul’s message to the Philippians here, Paul is speaking of his ministry as it pertained to possessions. Paul says that he didn’t wish for payment for any reason other than seeing others be fruitful. What does that mean? He didn’t care about his own prosperity; he cared about the Church there having spiritual prosperity. And in the midst of this exposition is where we find the verse in question, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And what does Paul mean here when he says that? Paul says that he has learned that no matter what is going on, no matter how much money he has (or doesn’t have), and no matter how (un)successful he has been physically; he is going to be content. Why is he going to be content even when he has nothing? Because he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. Paul declares here that Christ’s strength doesn’t give him the ability to gain the world, to be prosperous, to be the greatest mind of the time, or anything like that. Paul declares that Christ’s strength gives him the ability to be content when he has nothing in the world. See the contrast of what Paul is saying to how the modern world uses this verse today?

 

Success with no Stress

I believe that this verse can be used to feel confident in shooting for the stars in this world; however, I believe that the mindset one must take on is quite different than what you normally find. I believe that in order to use this verse correctly, your mindset cannot be fixated on the fact that you can succeed in whatever you do because of Christ’s strength in you; instead, your mindset should be grounded in the fact that even when failure comes, you will remain content because of Christ’s strength. This thought can empower you by helping you keep stress from impeding your success. The context indicates that Paul relied on Christ’s strength, through a focus on God’s work not his own. Therefore, when failure knocks on your door, you can have strength through Christ by having a focus set upon Christ and his work rather than your own self and your own goals.

 

Focus on Others

We should never take God’s strength and hide it away for ourselves and our own pursuits; we should always use God’s strength to focus on bettering those around us. Paul was not seeking his own pursuits, but God’s and the betterment of the people. Therefore, to apply Phil. 4:13 correctly, our focus should be on helping those around us succeed rather than only ourselves.

 

Focus on the Spiritual Battles

God’s strength is there to help you when you’re weak: when you don’t have any possessions, when you’ve lost all that you have, when your goals seem unreachable, and when temptation is knocking on the door. The latter of those options is perhaps the most important and the one that is the most liberating in terms of what God’s strength can do for you. God’s strength is there and is more than enough to push you through temptations, and what a wonderful thing that is.

 

So what about Phil. 4:13? How exactly should we use that verse? As you have hopefully seen, the concept of Christ’s strength goes beyond worldly success and applies to several different areas in life. We should use this strength to focus on God and not ourselves, focus on helping the world and not ourselves, and to focus on winning the spiritual battles that come your way. In short, we should use our strength in Christ to be like Christ.

Evidence for Faith

What if someone came up to you and told you that there was a dragon in his or her garage? That’d be a pretty crazy thing, and if you were told that, you would most certainly wish to see it in order to validate this assertion. However, when you inquire upon the dragon’s existence by looking into the person’s garage, you don’t find the dragon. You then decide said person was lying, delusional, or just wrong for some other reason. After telling the person your conclusion, the person tells you that you can’t see it, the dragon is invisible… Oh great, you’ve run across a nut job. There is no way in this world that there is an invisible dragon inside this person’s garage, it being invisible is just a cop-out. There is no way you would believe this person.

Carl Sagan gives an argument for the burden of proof on Christianity and theistic belief using this analogy. The analogy is a chapter in his book The Demon Haunted World, and one can find it here. However, I believe he missed congruency to Christianity’s claims for faith. I think it would have gone further. Something like this…

After telling said person you are still skeptical, said person goes and grabs a book. The book is old and talks about the dragon throughout its entirety, describing it as an invisible dragon that lives in people’s shelters. You still don’t believe that person, but you do find it very strange that someone would believe in an invisible dragon because of some old book. You explain that you’re still not buying it, and decide to leave. But he has more.

The guy goes on to tell you how this book was written not by one person, but 40. The book was composed over the course of 16 centuries by people that all lived in one nation, but were not writers for a job. Not only that, but the book so impressively tells a story about how this dragon both helped and destroyed these people over and over again… This guy is still a wacko.

The guy tells you that there are documents that prove that at least parts of this book existed centuries ago, and that many parts of this book are archaeologically and historically accurate. Not only that, but other pieces of history talk about people who kept this dragon in their home. He tells you that the people were at one time seen as a cult, persecuted, and viewed unfavorably by the public, but everyone still talked about the invisible dragon they kept… Okay, so there’s something else going on here than just a delusion. He’s just reading too much fan fiction, conspiracy theories, or something like that.

The guy continues on in his explanation about how trustworthy the book is due to ancient manuscripts, historical documents that are corroborating evidence, and the sheer depth of the book. He goes on and on and ON about this book, and how because of this book he believes in this invisible dragon. He goes on and on about how he can trust this book. In the end you walk away kinda rubbing your head at the insanity you just heard… An invisible dragon. Come on, you can’t be serious.

And indeed I’m not. The analogy above is a rough demonstration of what would have been a more accurate comparison, than Sagan’s,  however it is still lacking a fundamental piece: it’s God not an invisible dragon. The reason I make the story conclude with the person still not believing in the dragon is not because one should come to the same conclusion about God’s existence. The reason the conclusion is drawn is because it’s an invisible dragon. The evidence given is not one that would be an abundance of convincing evidence for something like an invisible dragon, Peter Pan, or Santa Clause. No, but the evidence given is much more convincing for something that also scientifically and philosophically makes sense.

Scientifically, the existence of God makes sense due to the Law of Biogenesis, which (attributed to Louis Pasteur) is the observation that living things come only from other living things. Mathematically, the existence of God makes sense (see Godel’s Ontological Proof and Cantor’s Absolute Infinite). Philosophically, a God existing makes sense because of motion and the need for something to have set everything in motion. Nothing does not set something in motion. Something has to set something in motion, and philosophically is makes sense that there is a stopping point at the existence of something creating something. In other words, you have to decide at some point that there was something that was never created or you run the risk of ad infinitum. There has to be something that just was or just is or both (this is a rough sketch of the Cosmological argument). Therefore, there must be something that just Is just as the Christian God said His name was, “I Am.” Philosophically, there has to be some supernatural being. Here’s the point: there is more than just a book that tells a story with evidence to back it up; there are logical reasons to believe in God- unlike an invisible dragon.

Let’s take a look at the evidences outside of science, math, and philosophy.

Internal Evidences

The Bible by itself has a considerable amount going for it. The book is rather immaculate. Except for some small differences between the Gospels (that amount to nothing in the grand scheme of things) and maybe some small (and I mean really small) translation errors, the book is essentially perfect. The book contains several complex motifs and and all points in one general direction throughout its entirety, and for that reason it is a wonderful piece of literature. However, what makes this book even more than a wonderful piece of literature is how different it is than other works. Not only does this book make the claim to be true History, but it does so with great historical accuracy. Moreover, the book in all of its greatness was not organized by some author or group of men sitting around trying to make the most amazing story ever. The Bible contains 66 books, written over the course of 1500-1600 years, and by 40 different authors who were not all of the same walk of life. They even had a variety of different situations and events in which they dealt with and grew up in. All this time period and all the different authors, and the whole book still points to two common themes displayed over and over again in various ways: what God says matters and the problem of sin versus salvation. The book is simply beautiful due to its complexity and unending source of knowledge.

Another interesting thing to note about the internal evidences of the Bible are the prophecies. From the third chapter of Genesis to the end of the Old Testament there is prophecy after prophecy of the coming Messiah, and Jesus fulfills them all. The Old Testament contains foreshadowing after foreshadowing of the great things to come in the New Testament. Moreover, there are many prophecies that are so accurate to History that it amazes the reader. For instance, there is the prophecy of Daniel’s in which he foresees the coming of 3 kingdoms after the Babylonian Empire. Daniel explains that 3 kingdoms will rise up and in the time of the third kingdom the kingdom of God would come. Turning through the pages of History you find that the Medo-Persian Empire took over the Babylonian, the Greeks took over the Medo-Persians, the Romans took over the Greeks, and in the time of the Roman Empire there comes Jesus proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus, the one that was killed for being a heretic by the people who were supposed to know and understand this prophecy, and thereby giving reason to believe that it was rigged by the people. This is just one good place to start, but there are so many prophecies to look into in which the foretelling was so precise.

Historical and Archaeological Evidences for the Bible

I mentioned that there are historical evidences for the Bible. I have a short list of things, but one can find a plethora of items in books such as The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and a simple search through Google. The few evidences I want to mention are not necessarily pieces of history that align with stories of the Bible, but rather pieces of the Bible found in history and pieces of archaeology that mention Yahweh.

Two famous pieces of the Bible found elsewhere besides the whole canons used so often are the 4Qflorilegium from the Dead Sea Scrolls[1] and the LXX Septugent. The Dead Sea Scrolls piece comes from around 300 to 100 B.C and contains several pieces of Old Testament scripture. the LXX Septugent is from around 280 to 100 B.C and contains many books of the Old Testament. These manuscripts are profound and excellent pieces of evidence because it can verify that many, if not all, prophecies really did get written down before Christ’s existence.

A few archaeological pieces one may find interesting are the Ebla Tablet, the Tel Dan Stele, the Mesha Stele, and Pilate Dedication stone. These are all just some pieces that validate the historical accuracy of the Bible, and they are also just pretty cool.This is just a place to start.

There are far more pieces than this if one takes the time to do the research. One can easily find a lot of History that agrees with the Bible and a lot of archaeology that confirms the Bible.

Oral Tradition

Many of those that are skeptical of the Bible and at least halfway have a reason why will know that the Bible heavily relied on oral tradition for what is estimated to be 20 years after the time of Jesus’ presence on earth. There are some sources that will dictate that this time period exhibited a fluctuation of literacy between 5% to 20%. For this reason, the skeptics feel completely confident in concluding that the story of Jesus can’t be right because we all know how the game of telephone works.[3]

However, the game of telephone, much like Sagan’s analogy, is a bad one. One reason why the analogy is bad is because we live in a completely different culture than them. It is known that many rabbis of that time would memorize the entire New Testament. This may seem impossible to us, but that’s because of the age we live in. We live in an age in which memorization is hardly needed because we have all information at the end of our fingers. Moreover, we have lived in a time of written text so we can always go back to the source. I think a good comparison for then and now with memory would be math before calculators. Because of the increase in calculators, many struggle to do double digit multiplication in their head and sometimes on paper. However, before calculators people had to do such things and could do it much more efficiently and accurately. This is the way our memory is compared to then. We don’t use it near as much as they likely did, and for that reason we likely don’t have as apt of a memory as those that would pass these stories on.

Another reason why the telephone analogy is a bad one is because in the game of telephone you hear something once, don’t get to ask what it was again, tell someone, don’t get to repeat it, and then don’t get to check and see if they have it right. In the world of oral tradition, one person would have told someone something, and then it would have to be repeated back at least by the second person. Moreover, the people who originally told the story would have been around and could correct those that were telling it wrong.

Another reason why oral tradition can be seen as trustworthy is because about 80% of Jesus’ sayings, when translated back to Aramaic, use mnemonic structure This implies that things were said, written, and used in such a way that it was easy to memorize. It’s sort of like how my 70 year old grandfather can still recite a poem to you that he gave in eighth grade, but he probably doesn’t recite it but once a year. Moreover, there is evidence to support that oral tradition wouldn’t have been oral only, but also complemented with the use of text. The stories very well may have been kept up with via small notes and reminders of certain parts of the story.[3]

Another thing to think about is the comparison of the Bible to Homer’s Iliad and Alexander the Great’s history. If one does not trust the Bible and is consistent about not trusting oral tradition, then one must completely throw out what we know about both of these things. The reason being that there are about 1000 years between the supposed origin of Homer’s Iliad and it being written down, and there are about 200 years between Alexander the Great and written manuscripts containing his history. However, there is only about 20 years between when the New Testament is thought to have begun its process of being written down, and only about 100 years before we find the first manuscripts of the Bible. This means that the oral tradition of the New Testament would have lasted a lot shorter of a time period than Alexander the Great’s history and Homer’s Iliad. Therefore, if the skeptic is to be consistent in his distrust of the Bible due to oral tradition, the skeptic must also refuse to believe Alexander the Great’s history and Homer’s Iliad as being kept close to the original state. Seeing as how the Gospel’s span of time without documentation is so much shorter than most of historical, odds are in its favor for accuracy over many other documents.[1]

Reason to Trust the Manuscripts

Another skeptical argument against the Bible has to deal with the lack of original documents and all of the translations and such. Well, the lack of original documents really goes back to the last point I made, are you going to complain and not trust the History of Alexander the great? Moreover, the lack of the originals is made up for by the vast amount of documents we have that all agree. We have some documents of the Gospel of John going back to the second century, about 306 documents of a specific type of Greek written in capital letters coming from around 350 A.D, about 2856 documents (in another style of Greek) coming from around 800 A.D, and a totality of about 24,000 manuscripts to work with. Furthermore, these manuscripts all agree more than most historical documents of that day and age (According to philosopher Norman Geisler and scholar William Nix, the manuscripts are 99.5% pure. Take that as you wish).[2]

An analogy I would like to make in order to help someone comprehend how a copy of a copy is worth trusting is as follows: you trust a yard stick, a scale, and a measuring cup. All of these things are just copies of copies (Fun fact for ya, the definition of a kilogram actually exists and is stored in Paris under international agreement). You really have no reason to trust these standards except for the fact that they are all you have known for your whole life. You’ve really never even had the opportunity to compare these standards to the original standard to make sure they were accurate. However, because all of these copies of copies are so precise and so close to the same size, you feel obligated to trust them. One might even say that you believe the people who copied such things would have had a high amount of integrity in copying them. You feel validated in trusting them for these two reasons, but if you’re honest it’s just the first one. This is just like the Bible. It is not the original, in fact it is copies of copies of copies. However, because all the manuscripts from different geographical locations and different languages coming from different times all agree to such a precise amount, you ought to be justified in trusting them. Moreover, the integrity of the copiers was to the extent of being killed for their pursuits. This wasn’t just in the very beginning, but even when Catholicism was spreading by the sword it was killing those who were trying to have it made in English rather than Latin. There was a large amount of integrity in the copiers, from the beginning to the King James Version.

So we have a large amount of manuscripts dating back to the second century (for the New Testament), we have a small gap between the story and the manuscripts of the Gospels, we have a large amount of manuscripts with a lot of precision involved in the creation, and we have the sincerity of the copiers. There is enough evidence to trust the manuscripts of the New Testament. Therefore, there is no reason to doubt here.

The Persecutions

One of the skeptical arguments about Christianity is that it only grew by the edge of the sword through the Roman Empire. Now, I’m not going to deny that happened; however, the skeptics are ignoring the part of history in which Christians were the ones persecuted, not persecuting. Why did they grow during that time? There is an answer.

One of the primary books used as a skeptical analysis of Christianity’s persecution is The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss. Her argument is that the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire is blown out of proportion and relies too heavily on Eusebius’ (who claimed to be a Christian) claims (who is debated by the skeptics as not being a good historian). Moss argues that the Roman Empire persecuted Christians for only 10 sporadic years from Jesus to the Edict of Toleration in 311 A.D. One of the first persecutions of Christians came around 64 A.D by Nero, and this is documented by Tacitus (not a Christian), a respected historian. There were some sporadic killings by the empire involved, but there was also the Diocletian persecution of the Christians around 303 A.D (some sources make the claim of there being over 20,000 Christians killed). The Diocletian persecution is the persecution that involved the killings in the Coliseum and it was brutal. There is no denying of that anywhere. However, Moss claims that the 10 years of persecution is not enough to matter or affect the growth. Maybe so. At the very least we can say the Empire persecuted them 10 sporadic years.

I’m not going to argue the point about the actual amount of persecution by the Roman Empire because I am not a historian. All I know is that Eusebius, a Christian Roman historian in the late 200’s and early 300’s. Still, I did notice in my studying of Moss’s work the lack of arguments about Christians being persecuted by the Jews and the Pagans as the time. It is known that Christians were not liked. They split up homes, were viewed as cult, were rejected, and persecuted by Pagans and Jews. There is no reason for them to grow at a time like that: when persecution isn’t just not being able to tell your parents your change in life, but the fear of being an outcast by society or stoned by your family. There is no reason why a staunch group of Jews (keep in mind their segregation between them and the Gentiles) would leave that religion, join Christianity, and have to start accepting the Gentiles all while becoming outcasts, getting killed, and having to split their homes because of it. There’s just no reason unless they had some sincerity involved. Some motivation that goes to the point of death.

The Bible isn’t true because of these persecutions, but these persecutions ought to cause a skeptic to raise an eyebrow about why a Jew would do such a thing. About why a Corinthian would leave the liberty of partying to the devout prudishness of a Christian. The why is what gets me. It’s some strong evidence in favor of the Bible’s truth.

Corroborating Evidence

Briefly, I would like to make note of three historians that are widely accepted by skeptics and Christians alike: Tacitus, Josephus, and Pliny the Younger. Josephus was a Jewish (not Christian Jewish) historian of the first century, Tacitus was a senator of the Roman Empire that was also a historian writing around 115 A.D, and Pliny the Younger who governed the persecution of many Christians and wrote in 111 A.D. These are all significant because they are not biased towards Christianity in any way shape or form, but all give evidence towards the existence of Jesus, the rapid spreading of Christianity, the sincerity of faith even in the face of persecution, and some of the teachings of the first century Christians. Corroborating evidence is huge, and this gives the Bible some extra credentials for being a book to trust for accuracy and truth[2]

Conclusion

It is important to note at this point that I am not a historian, nor am I an encyclopedia. I am also not intentionally dishonest. All the facts that I have given are from the things that I have read and discovered over the past few years. This is also not where one should stop if wishing to know about evidences for faith. My knowledge is very limited, but I have given a good starting place for various evidences that I have found through an honest inquiry on the subject.

Due to the philosophical, mathematical, and scientific reasons, combined with the provided evidence that the Bible is trustworthy, I find it reasonable to conclude that there is not a burden of evidence in which the Bible must fulfill. Instead, I conclude that I don’t need reason to believe (because I have been given plenty), but that I need reason to doubt.

My earnest desire is for the readers of this to be open minded. My inquiries in this particular area have been primarily in the direction of defense for the faith; however, I have not shielded myself from reading skeptical articles, watching skeptical videos, and even talking to several skeptics myself. If you are a skeptic reading this, my hope is that you will genuinely consider this claim for faith in the Christian God and many more.

I firmly believe that God has created a world in which there are people with mental faculties capable of honestly searching and finding Him to be true. I hope that you have found this interesting and/or helpful in your search for truth.

Subscripted Sources:

[1] Chapter Three of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

[2] Chapter Four of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

[3] Chapter Sixteen of True Reason by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer