Pastor Greg sometimes encounters people who think Christians are crazy for believing in God. Perhaps you do too? They ask things like, “Why would anyone become a Christian? Why should anyone place their faith in Jesus Christ – a man who lived over two thousand years ago? Can you prove that Jesus is real? Can you prove that He is God?” The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 3:14-15 was writing to those who were being persecuted for their faith at varying degrees, up to and including imprisonment and martyrdom. Peter reminded us that we need to be ready to give an answer to our critics. With gentleness and reverence, we are to be able to give a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ. We need to know and communicate the evidence for our faith when people demand that we PROVE IT! Christian apologetics is both the science and art of defending our faith by using reasons and evidence. Pastor Greg will spend most of June and July teaching us some evidence for our faith.
apologia (απολογία) ~ “defense”
… sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence … ~ 1 Peter 3:15
WEEK ONE: Is There Proof God Exists?
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. ~ Romans 1:20
WEEK TWO: Is There Only One Truth and Only One God?
…Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father?” ~ John 14:9
WEEK THREE: Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?
Justice requires Judgment. Ultimate Justice requires Ultimate Judgment. ~ Pastor G
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” … The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is PATIENT toward you, not wishing for ANY to perish but for ALL to come to repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:3-4, 9
WEEK FOUR: How Can A Loving God Send Anyone To Hell?
1) God does not SEND anyone to Hell though many will CHOOSE it.
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~ Matthew 7:13-14
2) Hell is not what most people presume it to be. Hell is a word used to describe an eternity separated from the love, presence, peace and Spirit of God.
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in hell choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no hell. ~ C.S. Lewis
WEEK FIVE: Do Miracles Actually Happen?
Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes God says yes. Sometimes God says no. Why? I don’t know, but I trust His judgment. If you press me, the Butterfly Effect probably has something to do with it. ~ Pastor G
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” ~ Isaiah 55:8-9
WEEK SIX: Is The Bible Reliable?
THREE PRIMARY RELIABILITY TESTS FOR ANCIENT DOCUMENTS
1) The Bibliographic Evidence Test
2) The Internal Evidence Test
In the event of an apparent inaccuracy or discrepancy the benefit of the doubt must be given to the document not to the critic. ~ Aristotle
WE DISPELLED TWO BIBLE MYTHS
MYTH #1: The English Bibles we have now have been translated in and out of hundreds of other languages and so there is no way to know what the original writings said.
MYTH #2: The Bible is FULL of contradictions.
3) The External Evidence Test
When we put the Bible to the tests of Bibliographic Evidence, Internal Evidence and External Evidence, we find that the Bible passes this test as well or better than any other ancient document. The Bible has proven its reliability many times over and we can trust it to reveal the truth to us. ~ Pastor G
WEEK SEVEN: Did Jesus Really live, Die, and Rise Again?
Thirty-two Biblical personalities are also recorded in other historical writings totally apart from the Bible. One of those thirty-two persons is Jesus Himself. ~ Pastor G
JUST TWO OF THE MANY EXTRA-BIBLICAL SOURCES CONFIRMING JESUS EXISTED
1) Cornelius Tacitus (55-118A.D.) ~ Roman senator, orator & ethnographer.
2) Flavius Josephus (37-100A.D.) ~ Jewish historian ~ Roman citizen.
Josephus was born only 4 years after Jesus’ death and Tacitus was born only 22 years after Jesus’ death in 33 A.D.
Neither human effort, nor the emperor’s generosity, nor the placating of the gods ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered by Nero. Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts … whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” … The founder of this name, Christ [Chistus in Latin], had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate … Suppressed for a time, the deadly superstition erupted again not only in Judea, the origin of this evil, but also in the city of Rome, where all things horrible and shameful from everywhere come together and become popular. ~ Cornelius Tacitus In “Annals” ~ Written 116 A.D.
“JEWISH ANTIQUITIES” BY JOSEPHUS MENTIONS JESUS TWICE
1) He mentions Jesus in passing while talking about Jesus’ brother, James.
Being therefore this kind of person [a heartless Sadducee], Ananus, thinking that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus had died and Albinus was still on his way, called [the Sanhedrin] and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others. He made the accusation that they had transgressed the law, and he handed them over to be stoned. ~ Flavius Josephus in Book 20 of “Jewish Antiquities”
2) THE TESTIMONIUM FLAVIANUM
Around this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who did surprising deeds, and a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who in the first place came to love him did not give up their affection for him, for on the third day, he appeared to them restored to life. The prophets of God had prophesied this and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, have still to this day not died out. ~ Flavius Josephus in Book 18 of “Jewish Antiquities”
GREEK: He was the Messiah. ~ LATIN: He was believed to be the Messiah.
SYRIAC: He was thought to be the Messiah. ~ ARABIC: He was perhaps the Messiah.
…No pagans and Jews who opposed Christianity denied Jesus’ historicity or even questioned it. … If anyone in the ancient world had a reason to dislike the Christian faith, it was the rabbis. To argue successfully that Jesus never existed but was a creation of early Christians would have been the most effective polemic against Christianity … Yet all Jewish sources treated Jesus as a fully historical person … The rabbis … used the real events of Jesus’ life against Him. ~ Dr. Robert Van Voorst
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. ~ Revelation 1:4-7
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR ALOHA GROUPS & PERSONAL STUDY
READ: The Quotes by Tacitus, Josephus and Van Voorst in these notes.
1) Why do you think so many people doubt the existence of Jesus?
2) Were you surprised to learn that there are literary sources outside of the Bible that mention Jesus and His brother James as historical figures? (Pastor Greg mentioned these are just two of the major ones.)
3) Last week and this week Pastor Greg mentioned there are actually thirty-two Biblical personalities that can be verified historically outside of the Bible. Did that surprise you?
4) Have you ever had someone insist that the Bible is fiction? Armed with this knowledge now, how will you respond the next time someone expresses that kind of doubt?
READ: Revelation 1:4-7 and Acts 1:9-11
1) Try to picture that day when Jesus returns with the clouds, just as He left. Will you feel excited? Terrified? Happy? Sad? A mixture? Why?
2) What does John mean in Revelation when he says: “All the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him?” Explain your reasons.
1) Pastor G gave a quick overview of the first six weeks of the series. was there any one week that resonated with you especially? What are some things you learned? Any surprises? Share your reactions with the group.
2) Do you feel like his answers to some of these tough critical apologetics questions are accurate and convincing? If not, what would you add if you were the one making the “apologia?”
3) At the very end of the message, Pastor Greg summed up the whole series in 16 sentences. Using your own words, can you construct your own apologia narrative using all seven “big ideas” in this series? Write it out in the space below or using additional paper.
READ: 1 Peter 3:15 (or get the full context in 1 Peter 3:13-22)
1) This was our “theme verse” for the entire series. Let’s revisit some questions from Week One’s Aloha Group and see if your answers have changed. We’ve studied and discussed this verse before but re-read it with fresh eyes this week. Does it really matter if you know WHY you believe in God? Why or why not? Does it really matter if you can EXPLAIN your reasons for believing to someone else? Why or why not?
2) Can you say “Testimonium Flavianum” three times fast?