April 21, 2017

Former Atheist Lee Strobel in His Own Words

Jerry Newcombe | Townhall.com | Posted: Apr 06, 2017

Atheist Lee Strobel served as the legal affairs editor for The Chicago Tribune, having graduated from Yale Law School. But his wife, Leslie, went to church.
To win his wife back to their blissful state of unbelief, Strobel went on a quest to use his investigative journalist skills to debunk Christianity once and for all: "No resurrection, no Christianity." But when he intensely studied the actual evidence, he reluctantly became convinced that the claims for the life, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are indeed true.
Strobel wrote a book about his spiritual quest, called The Case for Christ, which has sold millions of copies. Now, a new major movie by the same title is coming to theaters (4/7/17) and will tell his story.
As a Christian TV producer and radio host, I have had the privilege a few times to interview Lee Strobel, a leading Christian apologist of our time. What follows are some of his answers to my questions that he gave me in some of those interviews.

On His Becoming an Atheist
“I can go back to the exact place where I was sitting in a high school in Mt. Prospect, Illinois…. The scientific teaching I received, when I was a student that told me that God is irrelevant and that evolution explained the origin and the development of life, really set me down a path toward atheism.”
His Thoughts on Darwinism Now
“On the surface you can build a scientific case for Darwinism. In reality, though, the more you examine it, the more its pillars rot under scrutiny….I was told, for instance, that the fossil evidence supports Darwinism, and that you can reconstruct the progression of animal life through fossil discoveries and so forth. That’s simply not true. What the fossil record shows is the sudden appearance of fully formed creatures, with no precursor animals, and really no substantive change afterwards.”
On His Quest to Find the Truth
“I cross-examined experts to try to get them to articulate the evidence in a way that I could understand it and answer the tough questions that I had when I was a skeptic… and every time they would be able to provide cogent, solid arguments, and information and data and evidence that confirmed to me that Christianity is not a fairytale built on wishful thinking. But it is a belief system that is founded on a solid foundation of historical and scientific fact.”
On the Historical Reliability of the Four Biblical Gospels
“As a journalist, I’ve learned to investigate the reliability of documents. And when you look at the documents that make up the New Testament of the Bible, they meet the tests of reliability that historians use. For instance, the four Gospels in the Bible have ties to the apostles themselves. They’re either written by apostles or by people who were working with the apostles, like Mark, who worked with Peter, and Luke, who was a close associate of Paul, the eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus. So, we have eyewitness testimony that goes into the Gospels that are in the Bible. They also come very soon after the events themselves, so soon that we don’t have legend coming in and wiping out a solid core of historical truth.”
On Historical Evidence for Jesus Apart from the Bible
“There’s an historian by the name of Dr. Gary Habermas. He did a study of the references to Jesus in ancient history outside the Bible, and he found over 100 facts about the life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in ancient writings outside the Bible that corroborate what the Bible tells us about Jesus.”
On the Solid Foundation of the Christian Faith
“Our faith is built on a firm factual historical foundation. There’s not some document that’s going to surface, all of a sudden, that’s going to negate 2,000 years of the Church. I went into this as an atheist. I went in as a skeptic. I went in as someone who was motivated for this not to be true. What did I find? I found that I could trust the New Testament of the Bible, when it tells me about the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I found evidence that convinced me, as a skeptic, that Christianity is true.”
On the Medium of Film to Reach People for Christ
“Churches need to wake up and start seeing Christian filmmakers and Christian novelists as being missionaries to a new generation….Film is hugely influential among young people, and we need to see Christian filmmakers as missionaries. We need to pray for them, we need to get them trained. We need to finance them and support them.” [Note: Strobel said these prophetic words at the time the anti-Christian film, The DaVinci Code, was about to be released.]

April 10, 2017

John and Jesus: Historical Dates for Their Birth, Ministry and Death

John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ were instrumental in launching the movement we know as Christianity. There has been, and continues to be, extensive controversy over the key dates in the lives of these two men. More as a matter of curiosity than substance, we would like to know when they were born, when did they start their ministry, and when did they die?

I spent a considerable amount of time researching this topic for my novel. While it is impossible, based on current knowledge, to exactly pinpoint these dates, we can place them within a rather narrow window of history.

 

Birth.

It is generally agreed among most scholars that Jesus was born between 6 and 4 BC. According to the biblical record, John was born before Jesus. It would appear they were born a few months apart based on the timing of Mary’s pregnancy versus the gestation of Elizabeth’s baby. They were both born before the death of Herod the Great, the Roman client king of Judea, calculated by most scholars as being in March or April of 4 BC (also a controversial date).

Since it would appear both John and Jesus were born in the same year, this suggests both were born in 6 or 5 BC. Jesus is supposed to have started his ministry when he was between 29 and 31 years old. This gives more credibility to 5 BC.

Was Jesus born on December 25, 5 BC? Unlikely. The selection of this date was made long after the death of both men by early church fathers, allegedly to replace (or displace) a pagan holiday. Given the relationship of the two pregnancies, astronomical and environmental data (including the timing of the harvest), it would appear John was born in March and Jesus was born in late September or early October, 5 BC.

And that is as close as we can get until archeologists find something new to adjust our calculations.

 

Ministry.

In order for Jesus to be baptized by John (as recorded in the gospels), his ministry must have started before Jesus was baptized. Given the lag time it takes for information to travel in the first century AD, and the time it would take for John to establish his reputation, it is likely Jesus heard about John’s ministry several months after John actually started baptizing in the Jordan River. That puts a constraint on the start date of ~ 27 AD. He had to be active and well known before Herod Antipas had his steamy affair and then married Herodias (who divorced his half-brother to marry Herod). That romp apparently happened about 27 or 28 AD, which fits nicely with a start date for John’s ministry in 27 AD. Given the time it would take to establish himself as a prophet, we can guess -with some conviction - that John likely started his ministry between July and October of 27 AD. For the sake of historical sanity, I picked July of 27 AD.

John was apparently jailed for his opposition to the marriage of Herod and Herodias in February of 29 AD, and beheaded in August of 29 AD. We can also reach this conclusion because we know John was beheaded before Jesus died, and if Jesus died in April of 30 AD then John would have died the prior August.

If we have an approximation for John the Baptist, we also have to fit the ministry of Jesus within the same date constraints. If John was active from July of 27 AD through February of 29 AD, then Jesus must have been baptized before February 29 AD. According to the gospels, Jesus was about 30 when he established his ministry. That puts a constraint of between 26 and 28 AD. If we match John’s ministry with the baptism of Jesus, it would appear he was baptized in 28 AD. He would have been 31 at the time of his meeting with John.

Neither John nor Jesus had a long ministry. John’s demise came when he criticized Herod for marrying Herodias.

The priests, the Sadducees, and the Philistines regarded Jesus as an unwelcome outsider. Indeed, the Gospels are full of challenges directed at him. Jesus made them look incompetent. They were very annoyed when Jesus overturned the money changer tables because he was intruding on their money making scheme. While the Romans do not appear to have been overly concerned about Jesus, the priests did not have to work very hard to convince Pilate that Jesus was guilty of sedition. In addition, if we review the activity described in Luke (which is probably our best reference for elapsed time), and consider the impossibility of travel in the rainy season, Luke describes a ministry that would last 18 - 24 months.

If Jesus was crucified when he went to Jerusalem for Passover, there are two possible dates. Passover started on Monday, April 18, 29 AD and Friday, April 7, 30 AD. By tradition, Jesus was crucified immediately after Passover on Friday. That suggests April 7, 30 AD is the best fit because Passover would have ended Thursday night after sundown, allowing the Priests to pursue the trial without violating Jewish law (yes they could ignore the fact that Friday was preparation day). They also knew they had to act Thursday night because Jesus would likely leave Jerusalem after the close of Passover on Friday.

 

Conclusions

Both John and Jesus were born in 5 BC. It would appear the ministries of both John and Jesus lasted no more than 20 months. John ~ July 27 AD to February 29 AD. Jesus ~ August 28 AD. to April 30 AD. John was beheaded in August of 29 AD. Jesus was crucified in April of 30 AD.

That’s the best I can do unless we discover additional definitive and reliable information that gives us a better handle on these dates.


Ron
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February 22, 2017

The Catholic Church Must Not Go Backward.

I admire Pope Francis, 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina was elected as Pope, he brought to the position a persona of recognizable humility and empathy. Although I may not agree with him on some issues, his thoughts on spiritual renewal, marriage and resurrection bring a breath of fresh air to the stuffy halls of parochial tradition.

The Catholic Church must not go backward. Those who serve are not privileged, should not view themselves as members of a special caste of clerics, and must not forget their attention to humble service. Instead, we look to the Catholic Church for leadership that understands the intellectual and spiritual needs of a 21st century population, and is able to deal with the organizational, social, and political realities of the 21st century. This includes a larger role for women within the Church, and a renaissance of Christian theology.

To those who oppose change I suggest the following thought: Church doctrine was largely created by early Church fathers long after the death of Jesus Christ. Based on 1,800 year old knowledge and social beliefs, much of it is obsolete and does not even reflect the spirit of his message. If we wish to carry on the work of Jesus Christ, we must bring about constructive change based on a thoughtful evaluation of the role of Christian theology in the 21st century.

Focus on two words: renaissance and reformation. We look to the Catholic Church to bring about a renaissance of Christian theology, and a reformation of how the Church approaches its mission.


Ron
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February 08, 2017

God’s Help Comes in Many Ways

Sometimes a little humor helps brighten the day.
 

She hurried to the pharmacy to get medication, got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys inside. The woman found an old rusty coat hanger left on the ground. She looked at it and said, "I don't know how to use this."

She bowed her head and asked God to send her some help. Within 5 minutes a beat-up old motorcycle pulled up, driven by a bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag.

He got off of his cycle and asked if he could help.

She said: "Yes, my daughter is sick. I've locked my keys in my car. I must get home. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?"

He said, "Sure." He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute, the car door was open. She hugged the man and softly said, "Thank you, God, for sending me such a very nice man."

The man heard her little prayer and replied, "lady, I just got out of prison yesterday; I was in prison for car theft."

The woman hugged the man again, "Oh, thank you, God! You even sent me a professional." 

Is God great or what!?!

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January 30, 2017

Our Quest for God

Our Search for Understanding

We humans have searched for God since the beginning of human intelligence. We have been very creative in our interpretation of what or who is a God. Our explanations have typically been drawn from current experience, our fears, and our desires.  God is a woman.  God is a man.  God is an animal.  God is a star, the sun, or the moon.  God is an invisible being.  God exists in the earth.  God lives in the sky.  God reigns over our universe from a place outside our Cosmos. Human literature and traditions claim God is compassionate, God demands obedience, God is fickle, and God is steadfast. Our search for what is, or who is, God has produced a plethora of contradictory beliefs that have frequently been the source of bloody human conflict.

Gradually, however, most Christians have come to perceive God as a supernatural being, creator of all that exists in the Cosmos, the source of Christian values, and the essence of moral perfection. God provides us with a message of love, and teaches us how to become one with the transcendent principles of the Cosmos. In the final analysis, God is both a teacher of values and judge of individual conduct. For many, faith in the word and character of God provides life with its intrinsic meaning.

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January 24, 2017

Hatred Has No Moral Value

Political chaos can be found in many nations.
Zealots are consumed by the bile of hatred.
However let us remember a fundamental truth.

No matter what we may think is justified.

If a theology, ideology, or philosophy
fails to bring people together,

it has no moral value.


January 17, 2017

We Must Find Our Own Way

Established religions do not always practice their published theology. The faithful do not always observe the teachings of their faith. Believers can be obstinately patronizing about the truths they read in ancient documents. All too often, the selective use of religious doctrine is used to justify malicious behavior.

What a shame.

These realities of human failing present us with many questions. Who are we to judge?  How do we have a constructive conversation with those who espouse inflexible beliefs? How do we deal with the venom of a faith that has been corrupted by human betrayal? By what measure do we know our own actions and thoughts are spiritually virtuous?  And so on.

Be thoughtful. Human nature will not change. These failings and the questions they raise will be with us forever. Let us therefore embrace a positive and constructive view of who we are, and deal with these weaknesses of the human condition with grace and intelligence.

Let us be humble in our beliefs. In truth, most of us are pursuing the same quest. We want to be sure that life has meaning. We are, in a sense, always searching for a truth that is greater than ourselves, even if we are unable to fully comprehend the meaning of our discovery. There are, it would appear, many paths to spiritual truth. We must, each one of us, find our own way.

We will be measured by the sincerity of our effort and our compassion for others.


Father Giovanni
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January 11, 2017

Religions

It is clear to me that "religions" are the invention of man, and therefore exhibit all the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. All too frequently theology is based on current knowledge and mythology. A formalized belief system evolves which quickly becomes outdated, because it is based on the unrelenting march of rapidly obsoleting human knowledge. A growing gap thus separates the norms of religious practice from our perceived experience of reality.
  
Yet, in this there is a paradox. Any extended attempt to seek the spiritual must establish a cohesive framework of intellectual and emotional theology. Else it has no lasting virtue.

Let us come together, therefore, to establish a theology that venerates values, rather than the trappings of current knowledge.

Ron
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January 07, 2017

My Spouse

My spouse is my best friend.
Love has united two as one.
We comfort and encourage each other.
We share the joys and sorrows of life.

Two are better than one.
Together we are strong.
In moments of distress;
We share a loving hug.

I will be quick to show my love;
And be steadfast in my trust.
For as we journey through life,
I will often need the love - of my best friend.


January 04, 2017

Where Is The Garden of Eden?

There has always been speculation the real physical Garden of Eden existed (past tense) somewhere within the Fertile Crescent, or perhaps elsewhere. I prefer an allegorical interpretation of God's message because it is very relevant to the 21st century. My reasoning is thus: We have the means and intelligence to make our earth a paradise. We also have the unfortunate potential of moral failure. If we yield to the temptation of excess and ignore the spiritual rules of the Cosmos, we risk bringing about our own demise through disease, conflict and famine.

Thus we may ponder: Is this unique planet meant to be our garden of Eden? Will moral failure lead to eviction? Will we be the cause of our own demise?


Ron

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