We have now come to the final article in this series. Throughout this series we have seen good evidence that the gospels are historically accurate.
We’ve seen a ton of evidence for the trustworthiness of the gospels. In part 1, we looked at the traditional history of the New Testament manuscripts and saw that textual critics like Dan Wallace can reconstruct the original text to 99.99% accuracy. That 00.01% of uncertainty that remains has to do with only a few Bible passages that don’t really affect any major Christian doctrine or historical report concerning Jesus and the apostles. Ergo, when we read The New Testament today, we can be confident that this is what was originally penned. In part 2, we looked at the external and internal evidence for the traditional authorship of the gospels. We also looked at the most common arguments from skeptics against traditional authorship. We saw that there is every reason to believe that Matthew wrote Matthew, Mark wrote Mark, Luke wrote Luke, and John wrote John, and no good reason to doubt this conclusion. Then, in part 3, we looked at the issue of dating. We saw that there is powerful evidence to suggest that the book of Acts was written no later than 62 A.D, and that the rest of the Synoptics were penned probably in the early to mid-50s, just a mere 20 years after the events the documents describe. Thus, we have early, eyewitness testimony to the life and teachings of Jesus AND we know that we actually have what they wrote down and not a distortion. These three conclusions alone go a long way to establishing the claim that the gospels are historically reliable. But, we didn’t stop there. We went on in part 4 to look at extra-biblical evidence for the major historical claims of the gospels. We saw that secular historians like Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian Of Samosata, and others corroborated the gospels at multiple points. Indeed, the broad outline of the gospel storyline about Jesus can be pieced together just from extra-biblical mentions alone! We also saw some ways in which archeology confirms the truths of certain things in the gospels at various points. In part 5, we looked at internal evidence, the “criteria of authenticity” and saw how they make a cumulative case for the gospel authors’ commitment to truth. Then, in part 6, we looked at even more internal evidence. We looked at the evidence from undesigned coincidences, unnecessary details, and unexplained allusions, all features of genuine eyewitness accounts. Finally, in part 7, we looked at the argument from contradictions and saw a handful of reasons as to why they do not undermine the historical reliability of the gospels.
In part 8 of this series, we looked at various objections to miracles. We looked at the objections to miracles being possible from skeptical philosopher David Hume, and others. in that article, we saw that David Hume’s arguments are fallacious, and therefore do not undermine the possibility or believability of miracles.
Then, in part 9 of the series, we looked at the ultimate miracle in the New Testament; the resurrection of Jesus. On the premise that the gospels are written by eyewitnesses very early after the events, we looked at the specific details of their testimony regarding what happened to Jesus after his death. We saw that they claimed his tomb was empty the following Sunday morning, that he appeared to multiple groups on multiple different occasions, spending time talking to his disciples at length, and doing very physical things such as eating fish. We looked at the possibilities as to why the gospel authors would have written such things; they were either lying, mistaken, or they were telling the truth. But they were not lying or mistaken. And so it follows that they were telling the truth. Jesus Christ is alive! The world has been changed forever by his own death and resurrection. Maybe it’s time he change your life.
A Message For Non-Christians: Why Jesus Came and Died
Romans 3:23 tells us that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Psalm 14:2-3 in the Old Testament also says this. In this passage, we read; “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
The Bible teaches that all people are sinners. The Bible also teaches that God is just. Isaiah 5:16 says “But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.”
Psalm 33:4-5 says “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.”
Isaiah 61:8 says “For I, the Lord, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offering; and I will faithfully give them their recompense and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Unfortunately, because God is just, this means that He cannot let sin go unpunished. To let sin go unpunished would make God a corrupt judge. However, as the passages just cited tell us, God is most certainly not corrupt, but, rather, He is just. What is the penalty for our sins? Romans 6:23a says “For the wages of sin is death.” Matthew 10:28 goes into more detail about what kind of death this is; Jesus says that those thrown into Hell will be destroyed in both body and soul. Revelation 21:8 says it is to be thrown into the lake of fire and experience “the second death”. Our sins are capital offenses. On the other hand, God loves us very much. Indeed, 1 John 4:8 says unequivocally that “God is love”. God isn’t just lovING, but love is part of His very essence. It is one of His essential attributes.
So what is God to do? If he punishes us, He will be separated from those He loves for all eternity. But if he refuses to punish and allow people to come into his presence, how will justice be served? God solved this dilemma in this way; He became a man (John 1:1-3, 13, Philippians 2:5-8) and suffered the penalty on our behalf. Jesus’ torturous death on the cross was Him dying in our place. He took the punishment we deserved (See Isaiah 53:6, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 John 2:2). As John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Do you remember the medical examination of crucifixion from the previous entry when we talked about the Swoon Theory? That’s how much Jesus loves you. Jesus suffered a slow, torturous, agonizing death to keep you out of Hell. Jesus suffered the wrath of God so that you wouldn’t have to.
The atonement is offered to all people. 1 Timothy 2:4-6 says “(God) wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” This is because God “is not willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance.” The Bible tells us that God does not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked but prefers that the wicked turn from their ways and live (Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 33:11). However, despite the atonement being for all of humanity (cf. also Hebrews 2:9, 1 John 2:2), it is only applied to some and not others. Why? Because the atonement is provisional. Jesus died in your place, but unless you receive him by faith, His blood will not be registered as your account. You can think of it like this; Jesus’ death is a check that you must cash. If you never cash the check, it won’t do anything for you. Or if you’re too young to know what a check is, the death of Christ is like a bar of soap. Suppose the president of the United States were to mail bars of soap to every single U.S resident. Would this mean every person in the United States Of America would be clean? No. Why? Because only some apply the soap to their bodies. If others choose not to apply it to their bodies then they will remain filthy. In the same way, unless you apply the blood of Jesus by faith, you will not be cleansed of your sins.
As John 3:36 says “He that believeth on the Son shall see life, but he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (KJV). And as John 3:18 (ESV) says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
The choice is up to you. Although “The wages of sin is death”, fortunately, that’s not where Romans 6:23 ends. It goes on to say “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Will you receive this gift? Will you receive this wonderful gift that Jesus spilled his own blood to prepare for you? And notice what Paul calls it; a GIFT. You don’t have to work for gifts. You merely have to receive them. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not of yourselves. It is a gift of God. Not by works lest anyone should boast.”
If you want to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, then ask Him to come into your heart, repent of your current way of living, and accept his presence as Lord over your life. All you need to do is ask Jesus to save you and really mean it. Commit to following him.
A Message For Christians: How To Use This Material
* The Maximal Data Argument has long been misunderstood by Christian Apologists who prefer to use what is called The Minimal Facts Approach. Both approaches attempt to establish the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus and, in my opinion, both arguments are successful. I have written on the adequacy of Minimal Facts approaches in articles like “Saving The Minimal Facts Approach From Lydia McGrew PART 1”, “Saving The Minimal Facts Approach From … Continue reading. What I have defended in this article series is what has been called a Maximal Data Approach. Some, including myself, used to defend the resurrection of Jesus only using a Minimal Facts Approach because we found it to be (1) Easy to master, (2) Rhetorically powerful (it uses data most scholars of all theological and a-theological stripes accept), and most importantly, (3) Efficient. Able to be unpacked in a short amount of time you have. You can make a TikTok video or an entire course on this argument. The Maximal Data Approach, on the other hand, is just too inefficient. It is much easier to grant for the sake of the argument that the gospels are not reliable, and then use the criteria of authenticity to historically verify core facts upon which you can make an abductive case for the resurrection of Jesus. Long-time readers of Cerebral Faith will be all too familiar with this approach.
Like I said in the Facebook status above, you do not need to show 100 different archeological discoveries, quote a whole bunch of secular authors to show how many times the gospels’ historical accuracy can be verified, you don’t need to trot out a dozen undesigned coincidences, unexplained allusions, unnecessary details, and other internal evidences for the eyewitness veracity of the gospels, you don’t need to bring up textual criticism, etc. etc. etc. in order to make a case for the resurrection of Jesus and not use a minimal facts approach. All you really need to do is make a case for traditional authorship. If you can make a case for traditional authorship, then the gospels come from eyewitness testimony. Matthew, Peter (who gave his info to Mark), and John are all eyewitnesses. At that point, you just look at what they have to say about Jesus’ resurrection and try to come to the best explanation of why they’re saying what they’re saying. Are they saying what they’re saying because they’re fabricating tall tales? Are they saying what they’re saying because they were honestly mistaken? Or were they telling the truth. Well, we saw in the previous article in this series that they weren’t lying and some of the reasons I ruled that out was indeed on the basis of a mountain of information surveyed in articles that preceeded even that one. These men seem to be honest. They’re verified over and over again by both external and internal evidence. But what if you don’t have the time to talk about undesigned coincidences or mount a case for their honesty from a cumulative case based on the criterion of embarrassment? Then, you don’t have to! If you have one conversation to make your case, point to the evidence of their martyrdom and be done with it. Then you move on to looking at possible ways in which they might have been mistaken. By the way, you shouldn’t feel the need to address every single naturalistic theory in one go. You’re not giving a lecture or writing an article. You’re having a conversation with a skeptic or doubter. Let them choose a naturalistic theory, and you proceed from there. If your friend is well-read enough in the literature, he might already be aware of how some naturalistic theories fail, and so, he may not prefer those. Indeed, in Gary Habermas’ Credo House course on the Resurrection Of Jesus, he pointed to how some skeptics would shoot down a naturalistic theory so they could prop up one of their own. For example, David Strauss tore apart the Swoon Theory but preferred Hallucinations.
I’m going into all of this because I had to piece all of this together myself. Sadly, I don’t think maximalists have done a very good job at promoting the efficiency of their preferred method. I was given the puzzle pieces, but ultimately, I had to come to this realization on my own. I think when people like Lydia McGrew or David Pallmann use phrases like “You need to defend the reliability of the gospels”, it is misleading. What it sounds like they’re saying – and they’re NOT saying this – is that you do need to bring out a whole bunch of undesigned coincidences, archeological discoveries, you need to refute the skeptic’s comically long list of alleged gospel contradictions, the whole nine yards before you can even THINK about debating the resurrection. In other words, it sounds like you need to write a book on the trustworthiness of the gospels every single time. Who in their right mind would want to take up such a daunting task? This is why The Minimal Facts Approach was so attractive to me. It did an end run around what I mistakenly thought I had to do; write a book every time. With The Minimal Facts Approach, you just have the criteria of authenticity, and you can get your core facts (The death of Jesus, the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances to the disciples, the postmortem appearance to Paul, the postmortem appearance to James) and then it’s just debating what the best explanation is.
However, again, if you have limited time, you can just stick to defending traditional authorship. Maybe you can throw in early dating as well. But at least traditional authorship. Now, this is a very disputed premise. Very few non-Christian scholars are going to grant that the gospels are eyewitness testimonies. I say very few because I want to be modest. I WOULD say none at all, but then, I have not read all of the books of every single New Testament scholar alive. I have to be open to the fact that some … Continue reading You might not be able to just stick with examining The McGrewian Trilemma. And you know what? That’s ok. Both The Minimal Facts Approach and The Maximal Data Argument are two-stage arguments. In the former, the first is establishing the minimal facts, what they are and why we ought to accept them as historical facts. The second stage is refuting naturalistic theories and arriving at the bodily resurrection of Jesus by process of elimination. In The Maximal Data Argument (the short version), you establish traditional authorship and/or early dating and then you run your McGrewian Trilemma (Lying, Mistaken, Or Telling The Truth) and you defend the premises of the syllogism. This second stage is almost identical to the second stage of The Minimal Facts Approach, though due to not being restricted by scholarly consensus, you can admit any evidence you’d like.
In my 8 years of defending The Minimal Facts argument, I have never been able to just stick with what can account for the facts. I very often have to argue until I’m blue in the face for why the skeptic ought to affirm that Jesus of Nazareth existed and died via Roman Crucifixion, or why we ought to affirm that his disciples claimed and believed they saw him alive after his death. Sometimes I defend particular arguments for the minimal facts until I’m blue in the face, but if the skeptic won’t budge, I’ll be like “Well, I guess you just don’t find this argument for this minimal fact compelling. I have others. Let me tell them to you.” My most recent discussion on the resurrection has been with someone who I’ve been trying to evangelize for half a decade now. It was on the Cerebral Faith Facebook page on a status I had made about the evidential value of the disciples’ martyrdom. That comment thread turned into a full-blown debate on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. I could not get him to concede that the argument from the criterion of embarrassment regarding women being the first to discover the empty tomb was a good argument. He also rejected The Jerusalem Factor argument which I spent many comments defending. I eventually decided to go to other criteria-based arguments for the empty tomb, but he stopped responding.
So, it seems to me that The Minimal Facts Approach doesn’t really seem to have a dialectical advantage over The Maximal Data Approach as I had previously thought. Now, if you are a New Testament scholar doing a public debate with another New Testament scholar on the historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection, a Minimal Facts Approach can be tactically advantageous. You might give some reasons to accept them in your opening statement for the sake of your audience, but chances are your interlocutor won’t dispute that Jesus did die by crucifixion, that his tomb was found empty, that his followers and later Paul were convinced they saw him alive again. You may indeed be able to use “what the skeptic grants” I hope you read that in my best Gary Habermas impression and end up not having to defend as much. But if you’re like me, and most of your discussions are with lay skeptics, then you’re not really at that much of an advantage. No matter which argument you go with, you will spend as much time arguing in stage 1 as you do in stage 2.
Indeed, in my experience, I often find myself debating in both stages of The Minimal Facts approach at once. I have to defend the historicity of the minimal facts AND I have to refute naturalistic theories. It’s like the skeptic is essentially saying “I don’t accept these as historical facts, but even if I did, I’d still have a way to explain them.” As of writing this, I have not taken The Maximal Data Argument for Jesus’ resurrection to the battlefield, but I highly anticipate the same thing occurring when I do. “I don’t think the gospels ARE written by eyewitnesses. But even if I did, they could very plausibly be lying/mistaken.” Honestly, the only thing you lose is the rhetorical advantage of saying “And by the way, most scholars who hold to your worldview agree with me.”
In addition, I have found an irony concerning the so-called “Spiritual Resurrection” theory, and how both approaches deal with that. In an even more recent Facebook status, I wrote;
Like I told David Pallmann in the comment section of the embedded Facebook status above, while I think The Minimal Facts Approach can refute the spiritual resurrection (what I called Ghost Jesus), what you have to do is go on a bit of a rabbit trail. You have to get into Pauline exegesis and show how he thought of the term “resurrection” (anastisis in Greek) and maybe look at some Jewish and Pagan writings outside The Bible to show that everyone understood resurrection to be a physical, bodily phenomenon. This is what N.T Wright does in his book “The Resurrection Of The Son Of God” and he takes up quite a bit of time doing it. It’s cumbersome and I usually just state Wright’s conclusion and tell the skeptic to go read him because I don’t want to unpack all of that! I mostly stick with Pauline exegesis and argue that it’s unlikely that they would have interpreted their phenomenon as a vision or a ghostly visitation. I will also point to the Empty Tomb to argue that the Ghost Jesus theory fails on the grounds of inadequate explanatory scope. But by and large, it’s mostly just applying an interpretation to the disciples using Paul as a conduit. But in a Maximal Data Approach, you can use the physical descriptions of the postmortem appearances coming right from the eyewitnesses themselves.
I personally have always found refuting the spiritual resurrection view via the minimal facts method a bit awkward and cumbersome. The irony is that The Minimal Facts Approach is supposed to make things easier!
I am still of the opinion that both arguments work. I have not jumped on the anti-Minimal Facts bandwagon. That said, it seems like in terms of practicality, they’re on an equal playing field at best. At worst, The Maximal Data Argument is BETTER! Again, if you’re defending the historicity of the resurrection to the average Joe atheist, be it in person or on the internet, you’ll more than likely have to spend some time defending the minimal facts. And in that same span of time, you could have given a 5-7 minute defense of the gospel authorship, and 2-3 more minutes defending the McGrewian Syllogism. Indeed, I am convinced that I could unpack the MDA in the span of a single TikTok video. It may be a 10 minute TikTok, but that’s still within the time limit they give you, it’s still short-form content, and I think I’ll do it at some point just to demonstrate that it can be done. Refuting Ghost Jesus is done in a less roundabout way in an MDA than MFA, and you don’t really gain anything by using data “that most scholars grant” because in most settings, most laymen WON’T grant you those. Unless your interlocutor is a Bart Ehrman or Gerd Ludemann, but is instead a Paulogia you’re in no better or worse position using either.
My conclusion to my Christian readers is that it is up to you which version of the argument you wish to defend. As for me, we’ll see. I’m excited about taking this argument to skeptics of all kinds and seeing how they’ll respond. Perhaps I won’t rely on a Minimal Facts method as much as I used to. I used to think the gospel reliability approach was so inefficient, but of course anything is inefficient if you use it inefficiently. If you drive your car at 5 MPH, then obviously riding your bicycle will be a faster way to work. But driving that slowly is using your car in an inefficient way. The problem isn’t with the method, it’s with how I was using it.
I cut my teeth on Lee Strobel’s “The Case For Christ”. When I went to share this information with skeptics, I felt overwhelmed. At first, I couldn’t remember much of what I had read. Later on, I thought “Boy! This is a lot to unpack!” I was under the impression that I essentially had to reproduce the contents of the book. When I read Gary Habermas’ and Michael Licona’s approach “The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus” published by Kregel, it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Hopefully, this section has lifted a weight off of your shoulders. If you have been convinced by Lydia McGrew or Erik Manning that The Minimal Facts doesn’t work, or if you do think it works but wish you could make an even stronger case, hopefully I’ve shown you that you can do that. The Maximal Data Argument can be defended in depth over the course of a book (or 10 part blog post series), it can be defended in a one hour talk, or it can be defended in 8-10 minutes. Like The Minimal Facts Approach, there’s a long, medium, and short version of the argument. Adjust your presentation accordingly.
Resources To Study Further
When I began studying in preparation for this series, I felt a bit overwhelmed. There is SO MUCH positive evidence for the trustworthiness of the gospels that I had to be highly selective about which evidence I talked about in the categories of evidence surveyed in each article. There was a lot of archeological evidence that I just didn’t have the space to write on. There were even some undesigned coincidences between the gospels and extra biblical sources that I could have talked about, but didn’t. Maybe I will in future articles that aren’t part of this series. There is a category of evidence that argues from the unity of character portrayals of Jesus, Peter, Mary sister of Lazarus, and Martha. There is even some evidence for the traditional authorship of the gospels that I could have mentioned, but didn’t. Maybe I could have talked about more positive evidence if I didn’t stop to tackle arguments from skeptical scholars. However, I wanted to address the negative case because, as Proverbs 18:17 says “The first to plead his case seems right until another comes along and examines him.” I wanted my readers to know that the case could withstand the toughest of challenges.
If you’d like to pick up some materials, I recommend the following;
“The Historical Reliability Of The Gospels” by Craig Blomberg
“The Historical Reliability Of John’s Gospel: Issues and Commentary” by Craig Blomberg
“Hidden In Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences In The Gospels and Acts” by Lydia McGrew
“Why Are There Differences In The Gospels?: What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography” by Michael Licona I don’t endorse this book. But given that McGrew’s “The Mirror Or The Mask” is pretty much a rejoinder to this book, I think you ought to read this first
“The Mirror Or The Mask: Liberating The Gospels From Literary Devices” by Lydia McGrew
“The Eye Of The Beholder: The Gospel Of John and Historical Reportage” by Lydia McGrew
“Testimonies To The Truth: Why You Can Trust The Gospels” by Lydia McGrew
“The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation Into The Evidence For Jesus” by Lee Strobel
“In Defense Of Jesus: Investigating Attacks On The Identity Of Christ” by Lee Strobel
“The Case For Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence For Christ” by Brant Pitre
“Excavating The Evidence For Jesus: The Archeology and The History Of Christ and The Gospels” by Titus Kennedy
“The Archeology Of The New Testament: 75 Discoveries That Support The Reliability Of The Bible.” by David E Graves
“Can We Trust The Gospels?” by Peter J Williams
“Jesus and The Eyewitnesses: The Gospels As Eyewitness Testimonies” by Richard Baukham
“I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist” by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler
“Jesus and His World: The Archeological Evidence”by Craig Evans
Additionally, I recommend checking out The Lydia McGrew Podcast on Spotify and subscribing to the Testify YouTube channel. You can also subscribe to Lydia McGrew’s YouTube channel.
A Message To People Who Aren’t Convinced Yet
I have done apologetics long enough to not be so naive as to think anyone who reads this is going to fall to their knees and confess Jesus as their Savior. I hope some do, but I know some won’t. To these people, I ask; why aren’t you convinced? Why are some of my readers not convinced?
I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer. I think the reason why skeptical scholars today reject the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection differs from individual to individual. For some, it could be that this is not merely a matter of whether the evidence is sufficient, this is a moral and/or emotional issue for them. As I said in the previous article, if Jesus rose from the dead, the entire Christian worldview is vindicated. For some non-Christians (scholars and laypeople alike), they just don’t want Christianity to be true. If Christianity is true, then they know that they’ll either have to change the way they’re living so they can have a nice afterlife or else face God’s judgment for living in rebellion against Him. Atheism is a crutch for these people; if they can make themselves believe there’s no God, then they can live however they want and not have to worry. If there’s no God, there’s no soul. If there’s no soul, there’s no afterlife. If there’s no afterlife, there’s no Hell. If there’s no Hell, then they can sin, sin, sin away and have a perfectly clear conscience about it. It may also be that they had family or friends die who weren’t Christians, and they know that if Christianity is true, those people will go to Hell, so it’s more comforting for these people to believe there is no Hell. As an annihilationist, I don’t believe that anyone will endure eternal torment. John 3:16 makes it clear that the choice is between believing in Jesus Christ and having eternal life or not … Continue reading
Read this candid statement from a famous atheist, for example:
“[A fear of religion] has large and often pernicious consequences for modern intellectual life. […] I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact… that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” – Thomas Nagel Thomas Nagel, The Last Word, Oxford, 1997
Of course, this applies to atheists and agnostics. For other non-Christians, like Muslims or Mormons, their non-intellectual aversion is slightly different. Ask any Christian who has been converted out of Islam and he or she will tell you that it’s hard. Your family turns their back on you, perhaps they’ll try to murder you in an honor killing, your friends will leave you, every loved one you had who was also a Muslim will shun you and maybe even try to kill you.
Let me just quickly say something to those of you who may fall into the above category; having a relationship with Jesus Christ is worth more than anything you could ever have in this world. The apostle Paul, who endured severe hardships for being a Christian (see 2 Corinthians 6:3-10), wrote; “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8). According to Paul, having a relationship with Jesus Christ is worth so much, that everything else is garbage by comparison! The late Nabeel Qureshi, whose had some people turn their back on him when he converted to Christianity wrote; “All suffering is worth it to follow Jesus. He is that amazing.” Nabeel Qureshi, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity”, February 11th 2014, Zondervan, page
Speaking as a Christian myself, I wholeheartedly agree with Paul’s and Nabeel’s statements. My relationship with God means more to me than anything this world has to offer. Yahweh is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I love talking to him, I love going to church on Sunday to sing praises to Him. And, 2022-2023 has been filled with sorrows upon sorrows for me. I won’t go into all the details and bog down the reader’s pace, but if it weren’t for the joy of the Lord being my strength (Nehemiah 8:10), I probably wouldn’t even have had the resolve to get out of bed this morning. Jesus is my most dearest friend. “You’re my Friend and You are my Brother even though You are a King. I love You more than any other. So much more than anything. You alone are my Strength, my Shield.” Martin Nystrom’s hymn “As The Deer Panteth For Water” 1984. As Jesus says “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35). For my Muslim readers, I probably don’t even need to tell you about the things you could lose if you become a follower of Christ. You likely know already. You may be resisting the evidence put forth in this series for that reason. You don’t want Christianity to be true because you don’t want to follow Christ for fear of everyone turning their backs on you. But listen, if Jesus really is the one true God, wouldn’t you want to worship Him? Don’t you really want to know who the true God is? Whatever you may lose, it doesn’t even compare to what you will gain. Take it from Nabeel Qureshi. Take it from Paul, who got his butt handed to him on more than one occasion for preaching the gospel. He says everything is garbage in comparison to knowing Christ! Think about that, everything is garbage when contrasted with having a relationship with Jesus! And this is coming from a man who lived a life of constant persecution! That ought to tell you something. Moreover, you should take comfort from Psalm 27:10. In this psalm, King David wrote “Though my father and mother forsake me, The Lord will receive me.” Your earthly father may abandon you and call you an infidel for following Christ, but you’ll have a Heavenly Father who will receive you into His loving arms. If you accept Christ, God will be your Father. John 1:12 says “For those who received Him [Christ] to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to be called children of God”.
Jesus Himself promised “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)
I also want to put out the disclaimer that I do not think that everyone who rejects Christianity does so out of a love of their sin, a fear of rejection, repulsed at the idea of a loved one living in Hell, et. al. There can be and are genuine skeptics and doubters. If I didn’t think that were the case, I wouldn’t even bother trying to provide arguments for Christianity. I’d just preach the gospel and pray for those who don’t immediately receive it! Indeed, I myself am someone who has wrestled with intellectual doubts from time to time, and on more than a few occasions, it almost resulted in apostasy! I can sympathize with the person who finds it hard to believe. I think I’d probably be an atheist today if it weren’t for Christian Apologetics. I think all those “what abouts” in my head would have eventually consumed me. However, there are indeed people like Thomas Nagel who “don’t want the universe to be like that” (i.e ruled by God), and I think we need to acknowledge that.
I also firmly believe that those who are not Christians soley on the basis of intellectual doubts will eventually one day find the answers to his tough questions and convert. These are people like Lee Strobel, J. Warner Wallace, C.S Lewis, and Francis Collins. I just want to let the reader know that I don’t paint unbelievers with a broad brush. Sadly, some Christians do just that, but things aren’t so black and white. It is also possible for there to even be a blend of intellectual and emotional rejection. It’s just not black and white. This is why I will sometimes ask the non-Christian “If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?” or some variation. Because I don’t know what’s going through their heart and mind. But I can get a good idea if they say “no” or if they hesitate.
And there may be those who need to sit on this material for a while. Sift through it in their minds. Reflect. To these, I call to mind the words of God in Jeremiah 29:13, “If you seek me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart.”
This has been a rigorous intellectual journey for me. I have learned so much about The New Testament and why we should trust it. I learned of how to argue for the central historical truth claims of my faith even more rigorously. Most importantly, I have become more confident than ever that what I believe is actually true! I thank God for giving us such an abundance, err, excuse me, OVERabundance of historical evidence for the trustworthiness of the gospels. I thank Him for not requiring blind faith (which is irrational) and instead that there are good reasons to believe.
I have written this book-length article series during one of the stormiest and darkest seasons of my life. Physical illness and spells of situational depression have even prolonged the completion of this series My original projection was to be done by May 1st 2023. However, no matter what comes my way, I can continue to push on because I know Christ is alive and is seated at God’s right throne. He loves me and He is in control.
As the famous hymn goes;
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone,
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!” Hymn by Bill and Gloria Gaither, written in 1971
|↑1||I have written on the adequacy of Minimal Facts approaches in articles like “Saving The Minimal Facts Approach From Lydia McGrew PART 1”, “Saving The Minimal Facts Approach From Lydia McGrew PART 2”, and “The Minimal Facts Approach is NOT Too Minimal – A Response To Erik Manning”|
|↑2||I say very few because I want to be modest. I WOULD say none at all, but then, I have not read all of the books of every single New Testament scholar alive. I have to be open to the fact that some New Testament scholar who may not be as well known as, say, Ehrman, holds to the traditional authorship of the gospels. They may be out there for all I know, but if they are, they are in a tiny minority. Not among New Testament scholars as a whole, but among skeptical non-Christian scholars|
|↑3||I hope you read that in my best Gary Habermas impression|
|↑4||I don’t endorse this book. But given that McGrew’s “The Mirror Or The Mask” is pretty much a rejoinder to this book, I think you ought to read this first|
|↑5||As an annihilationist, I don’t believe that anyone will endure eternal torment. John 3:16 makes it clear that the choice is between believing in Jesus Christ and having eternal life or not believing in Jesus Christ and perishing as a result. Perishing, not being kept alive forever in torment. If the eternal torment view of Hell were true, everyone would have eternal life, believer and unbeliever alike. The only difference would be location and whether we’re happy or miserable. Moreover, in Matthew 10:28, Jesus says “Do not fear those who can kill the body. Rather, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in Hell.” Those who are thrown into Hell are destroyed in BOTH body AND soul, and since human persons are body/soul composites, if both the body and soul are destroyed, then there is no person left. Finally, no one is in Hell right now. While The Bible does teach that there is a conscious intermediate state of bliss and misery for the righteous and the wicked (see Luke 16:19-31), Hell is a post-resurrection fate. Daniel 12:2 and John 5:29 both speak of the unrighteous being raised to judgment as opposed to the righteous being raised to eternal life. And the judgment is, as Revelation 20:14 tells us, “the second death”. This is still nothing to sneeze at. If your family member did not trust in Christ, but you do, then it’s still the case that you’ll never see them again. Nevertheless, it may be possible to eventually move on from grieving their absence in Heaven. However, I can’t see anyone being able to enjoy their eternity knowing that their loved ones are in eternal and unremitting agony. There is a lot more that can be said on this topic, but I don’t want this footnote being lengthier than it already is.|
|↑6||Thomas Nagel, The Last Word, Oxford, 1997|
|↑7||Nabeel Qureshi, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity”, February 11th 2014, Zondervan, page|
|↑8||Martin Nystrom’s hymn “As The Deer Panteth For Water” 1984|
|↑9||My original projection was to be done by May 1st 2023|
|↑10||Hymn by Bill and Gloria Gaither, written in 1971|