At first blush this doesn’t seem like an ‘Organized Religion’ thing. The reason I include it here is that many large religious organizations do teach it today.
Let me ask you something: Don’t you think it’s a lot easier for a leader to sneak in his own agenda when there’s no outside authority to compare it to?
Mortimer Adler, one of the greatest literary scholars, spent decades researching a book called ‘The Great Ideas.’ He read every single major piece of literature in Western history, and his book explores the 102 most influential ideas that have defined Western culture.
In the first chapter, he talks about ‘The Twentieth Century Delusion.’ What’s that? It’s the fact modern people *think* that we are more enlightened about all subjects than people were 1000 years ago.
Are we more enlightened about science and technology?
Are we more enlightened about morality, philosophy and politics?
In college I took a class called ‘English Authors Before 1800.’ I was amazed at how sharp those writers were. Once you get past the ‘old English’ language, you discover that Shakespeare’s characters are just like the people you talk to every day.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible was written 3000 years ago, but its advice has saved my butt many, many times.
‘A soft answer defuses anger, but harsh words stir up evil.’
‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.’
‘The fool hates to be corrected by his father, but a wise son listens to advice.’
Are we really wiser in the 21st century than people were thousands of years ago?
Solomon, the author of Proverbs, said ‘There is nothing new under the sun.’ Many people have laughed at that statement. But he wasn’t talking about technology. He was talking about the issues of the human heart. Malcolm Muggeridge said, ‘News is old things happening to new people.’
So is the Bible a translation of a translation of a translation? Could it be reliable? Is it worth taking seriously?
For centuries, the oldest existing copies of the Old Testament were from 1100 AD. Because so many prophesies in the O.T. had come true, many scholars declared that it was written after the fact.
For example, Isaiah described the crucifixion of Jesus with remarkable precision, 700 years before it happened. Daniel predicted the rise and fall of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires, in sequence, including remarkable details – in 550 BC.
The skeptics had the upper hand in this debate until a boy threw rocks into a cave in the Qumran valley in 1947 and discovered what are now known as the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls.’
Not only did these scrolls date back to 200BC, proving that these astonishing predictions were written BEFORE the events took place, but the text was virtually identical to the later versions.
Similarly, we have 5,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, some of them dating back to ~60 A.D. The text is unquestionably solid.
There are plenty of people who say that the Bible is flaky and full of holes, but honestly, the facts simply don’t support that conclusion.
Take the ‘Gospels’ — same-generation accounts of Jesus’ life in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are *no* other events in ancient history that are documented as well as Jesus’ life. If we can’t believe those history books, how can we believe any other ones?
Of course the only reason anybody doubts this stuff is that it talks about miracles. Jesus feeds 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. He heals the blind and the lame. He himself rises from the dead.
Can this be believed? Or was it just a big conspiracy?
Well, that is THE question.
Chuck Colson, a former US Government official who went to jail for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, tells this story:
“Watergate was a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aides to the President of the United States.
But one of them, John Dean, testified against Nixon, to save his own skin – only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on. Two weeks!
The real cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. What’s more, nobody’s life was at stake.’
Why do I bring this up? Because conspiracies planned by big groups of people always fall apart. Somebody always narks.
Well in the case of Jesus, eleven disciples were crucified, tortured, stoned to death and burned to the stake because they stuck to their story.
They were all ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that Jesus rose from the dead.
The historical narrative reports that the first witnesses to the resurrection were women. Given the legal standing of women at that time, nobody would have written the story that way had it been made up.
What do you think?
Well, you really can’t make an informed decision until you read the story.
Fortunately there are four versions of that story — Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s and John’s. Read one or all and decide for yourself.
If you don’t read the story, you’re not in any kind of position to decide. Examine the evidence so you can make an educated decision.
Tomorrow, in the last installment, I’m going to take on #7:
‘If God was really good and powerful, he wouldn’t allow so much evil and suffering to go on.’
This is a tough question indeed. Pat answers and platitudes just won’t do. I promise to handle this one with kid gloves.