The case for Christmas (Part 2)
Last week, I cited The Case for Christmas, an excellent little book that is full of evidence of the reason in the reason for the season, by Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist at the Chicago Tribune who was educated at Yale Law School and was once an atheist.
I gave snapshots from scholars he interviewed in answering two of four critical questions to decipher fact from fantasy in the Christmas story:
1. Can the biographies of Jesus (in the Bible) be trusted?
2. Does archaeology confirm or contradict Jesus’ biographies? 3. Did Jesus fulfill the attributes of God?
4. Did Jesus match the identity of the Messiah?
Let me here convey snapshots of how scholars answered his latter two questions.
• Did Jesus fulfill the attributes of God? For this question, Strobel interviewed an author and editor of 40 books, DA Carson, research professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Carson explained profile evidence from Christ’s deity, incarnation, atonement and miracles, with the resurrection being “the ultimate vindication of his identity.”
Carson noted how Christ repeatedly attributed to himself qualities or attributes reserved only for God, especially the act of being able to forgive sin. He was claiming to be not merely a good moral man or teacher but the Son of God — the very essence of God in human flesh. To differ with that claim is to disagree with not only mainstream scholarship consensus but Jesus himself.
From his miracles to his acts of mercy, Jesus stands on a shelf all alone, set apart as one of the most influential people for Western civilization — if not the most influential person — who ever lived. His influence has shaped art, literature, architecture, governments, culture, countries and even our calendar (BC for “before Christ” and AD for the Latin “anno Domini” — “in the year of the Lord”). And he continues to change the hearts and minds of millions of his followers, who are called Christians, including my wife, Gena, and me.
• Did Jesus match the identity of the Messiah?
To understand whether Jesus was the awaited Messiah expected by Jews, Strobel turned to someone who was raised in a Jewish home, attended a synagogue and personally wrestled through the claims of Christ. Louis Lapides earned two master’s degrees, in the Old Testament and Semitics, from the Talbot Theological Seminary and is the former president of a national network of 15 messianic congregations.
Early on in Lapides’ inquiries into Jesus, he was startled to find aspects about his life and ministry that matched Old Testament verses foretelling the coming of one greater than Moses hundreds of years before Jesus was even born. Scholars call those messianic prophecies.
Though hundreds of such predictions exist in the Jewish Scriptures, Lapides was stunned by how Jesus fulfilled more than four-dozen major predictions. They included things one couldn’t fabricate or orchestrate, such as a virgin birth in Bethlehem, originating from the lineage of the tribe of Judah — the house of David — performing many miracles, being betrayed, being killed by piercing in the hands and feet (despite the fact that crucifixion wasn’t a form of capital punishment at the time), and having a body that would not decay.
Strobel notes that “as Lapides progressed through the Scriptures, he was stopped cold by Isaiah 53,” which is about God’s suffering servant. He added, “Instantly Lapides recognized the portrait: This was Jesus of Nazareth!” Lapides went on to explain that the odds of the messianic prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus were astronomical. Strobel concurred, recollecting his own research as an atheist when he discovered the same statistical analysis by mathematician Peter W. Stoner, who “estimated that the probability of fulfilling forty-eight prophecies was one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion!” It’s no surprise that CS Lewis — the great Oxford scholar, writer of the “Chronicles of Narnia” series and one who was also once an avid atheist — wrote in his timeless classic Mere Christianity: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
And for those who think religious belief is obsolete in our modern era, Lewis also had a good word and reminder: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
As you turn into a new year, remember that there are no greater resolutions we can make than spiritual ones.
If you have questions about how to take the steps to peace with God, please go to peacewithgod.net.
And if you want to read more about Christmas evidence, I encourage you to start by picking up Strobel’s The Case for Christmas, or you can watch Strobel himself detail the proof in a public speech he gave, titled “The Case For Christmas” on YouTube.
Gena and I wish you the happiest of new years and the greatest of life’s blessings in 2014! !
FOLLOW CHUCK NORRIS through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. © 2013 Creators.com.