Today we had the joy to hear Cody Rigney speak at the Men’s Breakfast. He shared a lot of data. I asked him if I could post his notes and they are below:
Men’s breakfast message
- It’s a privilege to be giving the message today, and I want to thank Pastor Steve Rhodes for giving me this opportunity.
- I want to start by asking you what is your biggest fear in sharing your faith? To help you think through this, let’s imagine you’re sitting in a restraraunt about ready to order your food, and suddenly you feel God calling you to ask your waiter if he has any prayer needs and maybe even to share about Jesus. Maybe there are a lot of people and the tables are kind of crowded so you know everyone will hear you what you say to your waiter. Let’s add one more challenge, let’s say you know the waiter is an atheist. Maybe he’s your brothers friend. What would your biggest fear be? (Ask people listening) (Likely rejection and fear of not having answers. Look for not having answers).
- If we look at what the bible says about this, we see that 1 Peter 3:15 says, “always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you, with gentleness and respect.”
- Now some might look at that and think, “Well I can give my testimony of what Jesus has done to transform my life but after that I don’t know how to answer objections like ‘There is no evidence for God’s existence’, or ‘Jesus is just a myth like Santa Claus’, or ‘The bible is corrupt’ or ‘Jesus can’t be the only way to heaven’.”
- But Jesus’ disciples were ready give answers to these objections. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul, an apostle of Christ, invites the doubters to find out the truth for themselves. He says: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” and 1 Corinthians 15:17 – “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”. Just before that Paul lists those who Jesus made appearances to, including 500 men. You can see here Paul was not afraid to face objections.
- We see the same attitude with Peter. In 2 Peter 1:16 – “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
- They were ready to defend their faith, and other ancient texts show us the next generation of disciples did as well.
- Today I want to help equip you to defend your faith, so I’m going to go through some of these objections. Obviously we won’t be able to cover every objection, but I hope that what I share with you will give you will give you confidence when sharing your faith, knowing that you will never face an objection that Christians haven’t already heard and you can even do your own research on those.
Objection #1: “There is no evidence that God exists”
- Let’s start with an obvious objection from an atheist, that there is no evidence that God exists.
- By show of hands, how many know somebody who thinks this? Or just doesn’t believe God exists?
- Now, the bible seems to claim there is evidence that He exists. Look at
- Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
- Romans 1:19-21 – “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
- It turns out, there are actually many good arguments for God’s existence that can withstand criticism. I would even go as far as to say there are no good arguments against God’s existence, because the ones out there fall apart upon further investigation. Many atheists recognize this and cop out by saying you can’t prove that something doesn’t exist. But I think that can only be true if there are no good arguments for Gods existence. But there are!
- So let’s look at one of the popular arguments for God’s existence.
- It’s called the cosmological argument and basically says that since our universe had a beginning, it must have had a cause.
- William Lane Craig, Research professor at Talbot School of Theology who holds a Ph.D in Philosophy and Ph.D in Theology (and 3 other degrees), writes in his book On Guard, and bear with me on this: “The cause of the universe must therefore be a transcendent cause beyond the universe. This cause must be itself uncaused because we’ve seen that an infinite series of causes is impossible. It is therefore the Uncaused First Cause. It must transcend space and time, since it created space and time. Therefore, it must be immaterial and nonphysical. It must be unimaginably powerful, since it created all matter and energy. Finally, it must be a personal being.”
- Let me paraphrase that for you. The cause of the universe must be God.
- Modern discoveries in Science and philosophy show us that space and time did actually begin to exist at some point in the past. Due to the limited amount of time, we won’t go into these discoveries, but feel free to ask me about them afterward.
Objective #2: ”The Bible is corrupt”
- Let’s move on to another objection. Let’s look at the objection that the Bible is corrupt.
- I was watching a YouTube video a while back of a Christian and a Muslim taking turns presenting their faith on a college campus. One thing the Muslim said was that there were hundreds of gospels and the early church fathers arbitrarily picked just 4 to include in the New Testament. I wondered for a while where he got that information but I eventually discovered he got it from the book, The Da Vinci Code, whether he knew it or not. It turns out the book is completely fiction and even says that on the book. I am glad to say that is simply not true.
- So because of limited time, I am going to list a few points and summarize with a quote from Sir Frederic Kenyon.
- 1 – Although we do not have the original New Testament manuscripts (by the way we don’t have the original of any ancient work), we have 5,400 copies of Greek manuscripts, partial and complete, of the New Testament from about the first 5 centuries, about 76x as many than the next closest ancient work.
- 2 – The earliest known manuscript copy we have on hand is from 125 AD.
- 3 – It is very likely that some of what we have on hand are direct copies of the originals, not copies of copies of copies and so on.
- Sir Frederic Kenyon, former directory and principal librarian at the British Museum and whose authority on ancient manuscripts is second to none, concludes: “The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially different as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”
Objection #3: “Jesus is a myth”
- Ok, let’s look at an objection that cuts to the core of Christian faith. The objection that Jesus is a myth.
- Can you guys throw out some of your thoughts about what non-Christians would say about Jesus?
- Let me start this one by saying that no scholar defends that Jesus never existed. With the exception of a handful, nearly every historian agrees that Jesus was a real man.
- What’s interesting about the Christian faith, is it’s the only faith grounded on historical fact and truth. In fact, the different works in the New Testament were originally independent accounts and sources of the events that occurred.
- Most of the books in the New Testament are dated to within 20-40 years of Christ’s death and resurrection. Which scholars agree is far too soon for legendary myths to develop, which usually take 150 years. And in fact, we see legendary books emerging around this time, like the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas. Those books were written much much later and were the result of legendary development. The fact is, the New Testament Gospels are the only historically reliable ones we have.
- In fact, the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead can be dated to within just a couple years after the crucifixion and resurrection.
- One Buddhist scholar begins his book by declaring quite frankly that his religious tradition doesn’t not have anything close to Christianity’s historical foundation. The texts he edited in his volume all date from 600 to 900 years after the Buddha’s death! Thus, all attempts to know the Buddha’s original teachings are “mere surmise” and “fruitless”!
- In “Why Trust the Bible?” Greg Gilbert comments that “Even more, though, than the religions of the world, Christianity presents itself as history. It’s not primarily just a list of ethical teachings or a body of philosophical musings or mystical “truths” or even a compendium of myths and fables. At its very heart, Christianity is a claim that something extraordinary has happened in the course of time – something concrete and real and historical.”
- Of all the miracles, healing, exorcisms, and profound wisdom from Jesus, perhaps the most important of all is Him rising from the dead. The Christian faith hinges on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.
- My wife was watching a show called air disasters, and they collect facts from the crash, using the black box and recorded communications with air traffic controllers and other factors. From the facts they come up with different explanations and they make a conclusion based on which explanation best explains the facts.
- The same can be done with the facts concerning the resurrection.
- Let’s look at the minimal facts related to the resurrection. The minimal facts approach was originally developed by Dr. Gary Habermas, distinguished professor and chair at Liberty University. These are historical facts agreed upon by majority of New Testament critics (we aren’t talking about evangelical scholarship here, this means non-Christians, even atheists):
- Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of His women followers.
- On numerous occasions and in different places individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive from the dead. (More than 500).
- The origin of the Christian faith depends on the belief of the earliest disciples that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.
- That’s awesome! So what is the best explanation of these facts?
- Of course, that God raised Jesus from the dead!
- Other natural explanations simply do not hold up. Pretty cool huh?
- Just to affirm even more confidence in the Scripture, I want to mention other reliable historical sources outside of the New Testament referring to Jesus.
- Norman Geisler, dean and professor of theology and apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary, summarized the historical evidence we get from extra-biblical sources. He states: “The primary sources for the life of Christ are the four Gospels. However, there are considerable reports from non-Christian sources that supplement and confirm the Gospel accounts. These com largely from Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Samaritan sources of the first century. In brief they inform us that: (1) Jesus was from Nazareth; (2) he lived a wise and virtuous life; (3) he was crucified in Palestine under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar at Passover time, being considered the Jewish king; (4) he was believed by his disciples to have been raised from the dead three days later; (5) his enemies acknowledged that he performed unusual feats they called “sorcery”; (6) his small band of disciples multiplied rapidly, speaking even as far as Rome; (7) his disciples denied polytheism (belief in multiple gods), lived moral lives, and worshipped Christ as Divine. This picture confirms the view of Christ presented in the New Testament Gospels.”
Objection #4: ‘Jesus can’t be the only way to heaven’
- There is one more objection I want to cover, and that is the objection, “Jesus can’t be the only way to heaven”.
- There are many different reasons someone might believe this, and so this is a slightly more difficult objection to address.
- I think we have to start with a view of heaven and hell that is based on truth. I’d say that truth can only be found in the bible, the text that the man who truly and historically rose from the dead authorized.
- Heaven is being with Jesus forever. Wait… isn’t heaven where you’ll be with God? We understand from the bible that Jesus is God in the flesh. He is God, who though he sat on a throne in paradise receiving praise from angels, stepped into the world and suffered for us, so that we can be with Him forever.
- What about Hell? Call out some words you think describe hell.
- One critical thing we can be sure of about Hell is that it is eternal separation from God.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the Glory of his might.”
- You see, God is holy, morally perfect. And there will certainly not be any sin in heaven. God would not allow his heaven to become like earth is now. But we’re all sinners, as Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That means we literally lack God’s glory. So how could we possibly get to heaven? That’s where Jesus comes in. On the cross he made a trade with us. He took our sin and death and he gave us his perfection. He took the punishment of our sin and suffered beyond anything we could imagine. And he died. Then 3 days later, he rose from the dead.
- It’s only through Him that we can be good enough to get into heaven. Our good works aren’t good enough, because we are all tainted with our bad works. They need washed away, and only Jesus can do that. It’s only through faith we are saved, not by any good things we do. That’s exactly what the historically affirmed bible teaches.
- This is one reason Jesus is the only way to heaven.
- He himself claimed to be the only way in John 14:6 – He said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. Nobody comes to the Father(God) except through me.”
- Wow, who could make a claim like that? Only God himself.
- I could keep going but I think my time is up.
- I hope that this has been helpful and encouraging for you in going about sharing your faith.
- I want to encourage you to be strong and courageous in your faith, and not have fear.
- As 2 Timothy 1:7 says: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
- If someone does object to your faith, go and research on the subject. Let them know you will get back to them on that. Talk to someone who can help you find answers. I am amazed all the time with the truth I find in Christ.
- Thank you all for listening.
- Does anybody have any questions?