[This is a response to Luce's challenges to Christianity a few posts ago.]
By James Chambers, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, USA Campus Staff
In an Open Letter to Cru, InterVarsity, etc., the author brings up some points that as Christians we need to address. As a Christian I need to give reasons and evidence for the things I believe. In this post I want to give reasons why God may choose to not stop evil when he is all-powerful and loving, reasons why the Bible is God's Word and reasons that Jesus is God.
The Problem of Evil
The logical problem of evil and the existence of God has been shown by Christians and others to not actually be a problem. Just because we can’t see a positive or good reason for an evil doesn’t mean there isn’t one and that there isn’t a God. The author’s’s point seems to point toward why wouldn’t God stop pointless evil if he has the power to do so. Why does God sit passively by? This is the route I am going to go. Christian theology teaches that evil consists of both moral and natural evil. Natural evils are those things that seem to have no human cause but are a result of natural processes (earthquakes). Moral evils are those things that humans cause (murder).
For Christianity, the problem of evil (both moral and natural) is a result of sin. Christian theology teaches that God created the universe and all that is in it. When that creation was made, God said it was good, not that there was no potential for evil in it. God created humans in his likeness and in that likeness God created humans to have free will to choose between good and evil. I reason that if God created humans to have limited free-will (where they could only choose to do good), then humans were not made in the image of God but instead created to be robots. When humanity fell away from God by sinning it resulted in a fallen humanity and a fallen creation. Natural evils are a result of the curse put on the earth. Moral evils are the result of a fallen humanity continuing to choose evil. Even though God has the power to stop evil, to do so would be to remove humans’ free will and to stop the consequences for the sins of humanity. There is good news and that is that Jesus came to reverse the curse of sin once and for all. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God provided the ultimate solution to both moral and natural evil. Though both continue to exist for a set a time, the church has been called to bring healing to a broken world through its ministries of compassion.
The Bible is God’s Word
The next point I want to address is that the Bible is not God’s Word. I will show that the author’s claims that using the Bible to demonstrate itself as God’s Word is not circular reasoning (strike 4). The first reason that the author’s argument is wrong is that the Bible is not one book, but is actually 66 books, with different authors. When Christians use the verses cited by the author, these verses are stating that other books or collections of books are God’s Word. Therefore, this is not circular reasoning. So, in the end I can use Scripture to claim that it is the Word of God and there is no logical contradiction. Now the term ‘God-breathed’ is a tough Greek word to translate. The author is correct in that the term is rare. Most translators translate the Greek word literally. By that, they give a direct English translation of the word and not try to paraphrase it. Though the definition of the word is vague and we may not completely understand with one hundred percent certainty what it means (yet I reasonable think the context dictates that God is involved in the process of Scripture and uses the term Godbreathed to describe that process), the focus of the passage is what the purpose of Scripture is for.
This does not completely answer the author’s objection. I will now show why the evidence points that the Bible is God’s Word.
First, Jesus was a historical figure and not an imaginary person made up by Christians. He truly existed and the gospels give an accurate account of his life, death and resurrection. There are multiple criteria that the gospels satisfy in showing that the gospels do in fact depict the historical Jesus. The first criteria is that of multiple attestation. The gospels in many places look alike (but are not always word for word) as they depict teachings of Jesus and actions of Jesus. One example is the teaching of Jesus about God as Father (Found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and extrabiblical sources). Second, the criteria of embarrassment shows that the early church would have removed those things that would have been embarrassing for them and it is unlikely they would have created such material. One such embarrassing encounter is when Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples. These help show that the new Testament is a reliable source. Second, since Jesus is a historical person and below I show that he is God, Jesus believes that the Old Testament is God’s Word. Jesus quotes the Old Testament and calls the Old Testament the Word of God (Mark 7:13). Jesus viewed the Scriptures as the written Word of God. Lastly, Jesus knew that his life was a continuation/fulfillment of what was written in the Old Testament and that his oral teachings would be written down so that they could be passed on to future generations. Jesus even promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come to guide them into all truth. This then makes it very likely that Jesus knew that the New Testament would become Scripture just as the Old. Thus Jesus believed in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) as the Word of God, and knew that the recording of his own teachings would rightly be considered the Word of God.
To summarize: If the gospel accounts give us an accurate picture of the historical Jesus, the Son of God; and if Jesus looked back to the Old Testament and forward to the New Testament as the Word of God, then believers in Jesus should do the same.
Jesus is God
The author’s comments that no one worshipped Jesus as God until later as evidence Jesus is not God has no bearing on the divinity of Jesus. It is reasonable for Jesus to hide his divinity from humanity until after his death and resurrection to complete his mission. The author’s second claim that Jesus never calls himself God is also false. In John 8:48-59, Jesus claims to be before Abraham was even born. Now, either Jesus is thousands of years old or he is claiming to be God. The fact that those who heard him wanted to stone him, is evidence that this was considered blasphemous. Therefore, the claim that Jesus never stated he was God does not hold up when one looks into Scripture.
The author also points that the term begat/begotten does not show evidence that Jesus is God because all of humanity can say they are the son/daughter of God because God created us. However, the term begat is only used biblically to speak of things creating things of the same kind. Nowhere does it say that God begat humanity in Genesis. Genesis states that God created humanity. The only place where it says that God begat anyone is in reference to Jesus. Therefore, only Jesus can say that he is begotten of God. Your conclusion is incorrect that anyone can claim that.
It is very logical that Jesus did believe he was God, clearly taught that and the disciples and eventually the Church continued to teach that Jesus is God.
Again, I know I have only touched a few of the author’s points. But these are the major points and I have tried to show, briefly, that the problem of evil does not show that God doesn’t exist and that the reasons for pointless evil put humans on the hook for it, not God. Second, I tried to show that the Bible is God’s Word and lastly that Jesus did in fact claim to be God, and his claim was fully recognized by his contemporaries.