Sunday, August 1, 2010

Part 6 of 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity

This is the sixth installment in our series:
10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity in which we examine 10 solid areas of evidence that support the unique claims of Christianity.
To read part 1 CLICK HERE
To read part 2 CLICK HERE
To read part 3 CLICK HERE
To read part 4 CLICK HERE
To read part 5 CLICK HERE

Let's move on to reason #6:

Most religions that populate the spiritual landscape are actually just philosophies. They are faith-systems that are not based upon empirical evidence, in other words, they must be accepted without proof, and most often, in spite of observation and statistical evidences. They are largely accepted because of the biases of the "believers" (i.e. the person was "raised" that way, or they highly respect other followers of that faith, or they just "like" the teachings and lifestyle presented by the religion)  These religions are purely subjective, and they lack a key component of objective reality---falsifiability.

Falsifiability? (Try to say that one ten times real fast)

Simply put, in order for something to be established as objectively TRUE, it must be verifiable. In other words, there must be a way to prove it false, some type of test that could be used to demonstrate it's truthfulness. This concept of falsifiability---the ability to prove that something is false, is a necessary component in a search for truth.

A hallmark of false religions is the lack of verifiability. If there were to be objective ways to disprove the false religion, then it would lose credibility upon examination, and converts would fall by the wayside. As Matt Slick, theologian and apologist states:

"If I were to make up a theological system and try to get converts, I would not want my system to be able to be proven to be false. Therefore, I would need to arrange a theology in such a way that it cannot be disproved. I would avoid stating that a certain event happened at a certain place and time because that could be verified. I would make up a system that is vague and has no ties to anything that can be checked out. It could not be proven to be false and I would be free to get all the converts I could muster."

As we survey the landscape of faith, we see Taosim, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, Shinto, etc. When added together in terms of "believers", the numbers are impressive. Nearly 2 BILLION people have adopted these philosophies worldwide. Think about out of every three people in the world believe in a faith system that is non-falsifiable, non-verifiable. It must be accepted based upon subjective reasons alone.

But trust me, it is not my primary intention to denigrate philosophical viewpoints, but merely to point out that most religions are non-verifiable. There is nothing objective that can be pointed to/tested/ to provide corroborating evidence of its truthfulness, other than "subjective experience." As noted scholar Ravi Zacharias observes in many of his treatise, in order for something to be established as "true" it must satisfy two different components: (1) the correspondence theory of truth, and (2) the coherence theory of truth.

Don't change the channel...don't click the BACK button, this isn't going to lead to a dull, dry discussion of philosophical theories.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth simply states that if something is true, then it will correspond with what we observe in reality.  In short: truth will not contradict reality. For instance, if a faith teaches that a person's spirit comprises 10% of their body weight during life, and that the spirit leaves at death, then we could weigh a living person, and then, after they die, weigh their corpse. If their dead body weighs 99% the same as their living body, then we could say that the faith has been proven false, at least in that particular teaching.

Mormonism, the faith of the Latter Day Saints, is a straight-forward example of a failure of this test on two important issues. First, the Book of Mormon claims to be the written history of huge civilizations that supposedly existed in the eastern United States about two thousand years ago. These enormous societies supposedly had large cities, culture, currency, weapons, buildings, and specific geographic locations such as rivers and hills with supposedly well-known names. The problem is, not even a single coin has ever been found to substantiate these claims.  What we do have in archaeology is a clear history of native American tribes living and thriving in these areas but no huge civilizations with cities of stone and complex cultures. Mormon history written in the Book of Mormon fails the Correspondence Theory.

To put this into perspective, compare Mormon history to Biblical history.  William Albright (renowned Middle Eastern archaeologist) noted:

"The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the 18th and 19th centuries, certain phases which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history."

Millar Burrows (Yale University) observed:

"On the whole, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record."

Secondly, the Book of Mormon teaches that these ancient Americans that supposedly lived in these elaborate cities, were the descendants of Abraham who sailed to America from Israel about 2500 years ago. They also teach that the current tribes of native Americans are the modern descendants of these ancient Israelites. Recently, a team of genetic scientists set out to test this theory using DNA analysis, and the Mormon Church was horrified to learn that the DNA of both living native American Indians and the bones of ancient Indians point to direct descendancy from Siberian tribesmen to over 99.5% accuracy. The Indians are not Jewish descendants, but they are the descendants of nomadic tribesmen who came across the Bering Strait several thousand years ago.  The DNA tests from the Eskimos to the Indians of South America all had the same results---Far East Asiatic descendancy, not Middle Eastern, certainly not Jewish. For more detailed, scientific explanations of these tests, visit HERE.

The Coherence Theory of Truth (in its most basic, elemental form) states that for something to be true, it must cohere, i.e. it must be consistent with itself. In other words, it cannot have contradictions within its own teachings. Take for instance the Qur'an (Koran). In some places it teaches that Jesus did not die, and yet other verses talk about the death of Jesus. Since both cannot be true, the Qur'an (the basis for the Islamic faith) is not coherent, it does not pass the Coherence Test. It also teaches that Jesus was not crucified, which then fails the Correspondence Test (history clearly demonstates that Jesus was crucified).
Enough of this philosophical overview---let's get to the heart of it.

What have we established so far?
(1) Most world religions are not falsifiable (it is impossible to prove or disprove them)
(2) About 2 billion people follow these faiths that only have subjective reasons for acceptance.
(3) Truth must (a) correspond to reality (b) cohere with itself (no contradictions)

But, here comes the rub---and I am sure that many of you are already begging to ask it:
"What does this have to do with the 10 Non-Biblical Proofs of Christianity?"

I'm glad you asked.

The answer:   EVERYTHING.

Of the world's major religions, only a handful are in that necessary and special class, that is, they are capable of being objectively falsified. (Remember--that is important).  In a short list they would be:
(1) Islam
(2) Judaism
(3) Christianity
(4) Some Christian cults such as Mormonism.

As we have already seen, Islam fails on both the Correspondence and Coherence tenets of truth. Mormonism, likewise, is not a viable candidate. We are left with Judaism and Christianity. Actually, since Christianity does not claim to be a new faith, but actually the fulfillment of the prophecies and promises found in the Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament), we will consider them to be a contiguous revelation. I am not belittling Judaism in any way, but as Jesus said: "I have not come to destroy the law and the prophets (Judaism), but to fulfill them." Therefore, we are left with Christianity as the final verifiable and falsifiable faith system.

Christianity is falsifiable? Absolutely, perhaps more so than any other faith.

Why? This is crucial--and most people have never really thought about just how important this is:

Christianity is based completely upon the objective, historically-verifiable assertion that Jesus Christ actually lived, actually died on a cross for our sins, and then actually physically rose from the dead to prove His claims and identity.

In other words, if Jesus never lived, or never died on a cross, then ALL of Christianity falls. The complete foundation of the claims of Christianity are verifiable, falsifiable. Whereas most religions teach things that are completely "spiritual" or subjective (out of the reach of empirical study), Christianity is 100% vested in the actual reliability of events and people and places in actual history.

Notable scholar F.F. Bruce declared that:

"It might be held, for example, that the ethics of Confucianism have an independent value quite apart from the story of the life of Confucius himself, just as the philosophy of Plato must be considered on its own merits, quite apart from the traditions that have come down to us about the life of Plato and the question of the extent of his indebtedness to Socrates. But the argument can be applied to the New Testament only if we ignore the real essence of Christianity. For the Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news...but Christianity as a way of life depends upon the acceptance of Christianity as good news. And this good news is intimately bound up with the historical order, for it tells how for the world's redemption God entered into history, the eternal came into time, the kingdom of heaven invaded the realm of earth, in the great events of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. "

Wow. Never thought about that, did you? Don't worry, most people haven't either. They just lump Christianity in with all the rest and say that all religion is just "Pie in the sky in the by and by." That is patently false. The major teachings of Christianity can be verified historically and archaeologically.

And, by the way, they have been.

Consider some of these observations from world-renowned historians, scholars, and archaeologists.

Sir William Ramsay (one of the greatest archaeologists of the past century), set out over a period of 15 years to discredit the New Testament, especially the history of the early church written by Luke in the book of Acts. What was his conclusion after a decade and a half of intense investigation? "Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. "

Back to F.F. Bruce: "Historian F. F. Bruce comments "The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical author(ship), the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt."

Nelson Glueck, Jewish scholar / archaeologist) sets the record straight: "To date no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement."

Sir Frederic Kenyon, an expert in ancient literature considered the issue of the reliability of the New Testament documents. People wanted to know: Can we trust, that the New Testament that we hold today in our hands, has been accurately and reliability preserved and passed down to us?  His research led him to pronounce: "... no unbiased scholar would deny that the text that has come down to us is substantially sound." After considering one notable manuscript discovery, he further observed: "The net result of this discovery ... is, in fact, to reduce the gap between the earlier manuscripts and the traditional dates of the New Testament books so far that it becomes negligible in any discussion of their authenticity. No other ancient book has anything like such an early and plentiful testimony to its text."

Actually, when textual critics analyzed the 5200+ exisiting greek manuscripts of the NewTestament, they found that the New Testament that we have today is 99.5% - 99.9% pure. For more information on this critical point, visit HERE  then HERE and even HERE.

Concerning the all-important resurrection of Jesus, scholar Michael Grant (Oxford Univ. Classical historian) observes, "If we apply the same criteria that we would apply to other ancient literary sources, the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty."

Scholar Paul Meier agrees: "If all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that [Jesus' tomb] was actually empty… And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement."

Amazing. And many of these statements originated from scholars who did not want to believe that Christianity is true and verifiable.

Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the Royal Professor of Law (Harvard University), is considered to be, possibly, the greatest legal mind of the modern age. He authored the landmark book, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence. Initially, Dr. Simon Greenleaf considered the resurrection of Christ to be a complete fabrication. He set out to completely expose it as a myth. After painstakingly reviewing the evidence concerning the resurrection, Dr. Greenleaf reached a surprising conclusion. He emphatically declared that the resurrection has been absolutely established according to the laws of evidence. Furthermore, Dr. Greenleaf turned from skepticism and became a Christian.
How about someone from the 20th century? Consider the famous former-skeptic-turned-Christian, C.S. Lewis. He said of his conversion (loosely paraphrasing) that he was "dragged kicking and screaming into the faith" because of the evidence. He didn't want to believe, but he couldn't deny the evidence, especially of the resurrection, once investigated.

Watch, as former atheist and Chicago Tribune reporter, Lee Strobel, talks about his investigation into the verifiability of Christianity: WATCH VIDEO HERE.

View the video testimony of former-skeptic-turned-Christian, Josh McDowell, as he chronicles his life-changing investigation: HERE. is based upon verifiable historical events, around real people, and real events in very real places. Investigate it, as Greenleaf did, as did Lewis, as did McDowell, and as Lee Strobel did. None of these skeptics wanted it to be true, but all acknowledged Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior after a prolonged investigation into the evidence.

Where will your investigation end? I would love to hear about it.

Coming soon, reason #7.