Currently in vogue are highly publicized and widely disseminated conferences and TV programs featuring "experts" allegedly examining evidence to discover who Jesus really was. Larry King Live did a program July 6 titled "Who is Jesus?" Peter Jennings hosted a TV special June 26 titled "The Search for Jesus." Academia has been involved for some time. An Oregon State University (OSU) "Jesus at 2000" symposium February 8-10, 1996 was televised live across America "to explore what scholars have to say about the man described as a mystic, a healer and the Son of God." Presenters, (according to publicity) were "six of the most renowned religion scholars in the world...." OSU also hosted "God at 2000," televised live February 10-12, 2000 and featuring more "scholars" to offer a "new image of God for the twenty-first century"—as though God were a myth we've concocted to give ourselves false comfort and man needs a new God with a more modern appeal. If so, forget it!
One senses a bit of elitism in the implication that scholars have an advantage over the rest of us in knowing Christ. So God is partial to the highly educated? Never are these "experts"promoted as humble servants of God who know our Lord and are walking in obedience to His Word. Instead, emphasis is upon their academic prowess. Their Ph.D.s are flaunted as a license to revise, demean, contradict and defy God's Word.
God is not impressed with this world's academic credentials. What a tragedy, then, that the church has come to value the wisdom of this ungodly world so highly that Christian schools and even seminaries compromise the truth in order to be credentialed by the enemies of the Cross. God has other criteria entirely.
While scholarship can be beneficial in secular matters, it has nothing to do with knowing, obeying and pleasing God. Abraham, "the Friend of God" (Jas 2:23), was no scholar. In fact, the wisdom of this world is an actual hindrance in knowing God and the things revealed by the Spirit of God. Paul wrote, "...it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe...we preach Christ crucified...unto the Greeks foolishness....For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God...that no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Cor:1:19-29; 3:19).
Jesus said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3); "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes...for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Lk 10:21). The very opposite of this humble walk with God characterizes the scholarly "experts."
God declares, "I dwell...with him...that is of a contrite and humble spirit...to this man will I look, even to him that is poor [lowly] ...and trembleth at my word" (Is 57:15; 66:2). But far from trembling at God's Word, the "biblical scholars" of the Jesus Seminar, and others to whom the media looks for their supposed expertise about God and Christ, elevate themselves as judges over the Bible to pick it apart.
In that process they violate the most basic common sense by imposing their prejudices upon Scripture. What these alleged scholars do would never be tolerated in a court of law. Though born 1,900 years too late to have been present, they have the audacity to contradict the account of eyewitnesses—and millions of people take them seriously as though they can with impunity re-invent past history. One is reminded of the classic satire Soviet citizens whispered in Iron Curtain days: "The Soviet Union is the only country with an unpredictable past."
If these scholars believe in a god at all, he can't do miracles. So the Red Sea couldn't possibly have opened for the Israelites to cross on dry ground; the walls of Jericho couldn't have fallen down as described by Joshua, who was there and saw it; Jesus couldn't have literally walked on water, healed the sick, raised the dead, fed 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes, died for our sins or risen from the dead (there must be another explanation for the empty tomb). Such unbelief is broadcast to the world as fact, while those who could prove the Bible to be true are rarely allowed to make their case. As a result, millions believe that the Bible is a collection of myths, just as Jennings portrayed it.
Prestigious symposiums, carried over radio and TV and reported in the press, explore new myths about God and Christ for modern man. Given the wild enthusiasm which has greeted the Harry Potter fantasies, the scholars seem to be right in tune with the times. A new myth which everyone could accept could form the basis for a new world religion unifying the world—something Jesus did not attempt to do. He came not "to give peace on earth...but rather division" (Lk 12:51).
The world, however, wants a man who will bring peace and unity. Who could accomplish that but the Antichrist, as the Bible foretells? Jesus said to the Jews, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" (Jn:5:43). These scholarly conferences and TV specials only help to prepare the world for that man of wickedness.
During the internet discussion following Jennings's skeptical humanistic program someone asked, "Why didn't the rabbis or Roman authorities produce Jesus' body if He was still dead?" Jennings replied, "I confess this is much too complicated a subject for me...." Yet this is the very heart of Christianity. How could any program supposedly defining Jesus minimize the Resurrection? Jennings referred to the great impact for good that Jesus and His teachings and example have had throughout the world. But if His first followers were liars and tried to establish that a dead man was really alive, what does that say for His influence? Jennings evaded the issue by saying, "The question of the Resurrection is perhaps the most delicate one."
Jennings claimed that the majority of those interviewed for the program were Christians. The designation "Christian" was applied only to Christ's disciples (Acts:11:26). To be a Christian, one must be a disciple/follower of Christ, believing in Him and obeying His teachings. The scholars argue that the New Testament isn't accurate, so we are not sure who Christ was, what He did and what He taught. If so, then to call oneself a Christian is both fraud and folly. How can one be an obedient follower of someone about whom no accurate record exists of who He was, what He did or what He taught?
Jennings said the "Search for Jesus" was "one of the most enriching experiences of my journalistic life...as we have gone in search for what we can know about Jesus the man." Yet his "search" replaced the record of eyewitnesses with speculation. Asked why he had picked a late date for the writing of the Gospels, Jennings replied, "We relied on the historians and scholars." No, he relied upon certain scholars who don't believe the Bible, ignoring multitudes of those equally qualified who could prove it is true.
Jennings was also asked why his program was "so lopsided in favor of those who reject the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts" (even the Catholic priest was also an unbeliever) and why his report "presented more speculation than fact." He replied that "for those who take the Gospels as literal truth...the real power lies precisely in the fact that Jesus' birth story, for example...fulfills the prophecies and proves He was the Messiah." But he never explained why on TV he had ignored this proof .
One of the Jennings experts (John Dominic Crossan, "the best-known Jesus scholar in the world" and co-founder of the Jesus Seminar) was asked why the program "did not include more 'conservative' scholars." He offered the excuse that "we have always heard the other [conservative] side." No, we have been hearing far more from his side, that the Gospels are "a metaphorical story, not an historical story" and that the early Christians "would not let His [Christ's] death end His movement...but insisted [falsely] that God had vindicated Jesus by raising Him from the dead."
When asked why attention was not given to the encounter with the risen Christ that converted Saul of Tarsus from persecutor of the church to its chief apostle, Crossan skirted the question. He admitted that the scholars of the Jesus Seminar don't even agree among themselves, and their conclusions are decided by majority vote. This is scholarship?
Skepticism is valuable in preventing one from being taken in by fraud. Cults thrive because multitudes are so gullible as to follow (in spite of false prophecies and teachings that directly contradict the Bible) some authoritative religious leader: a Joseph Smith, a Mary Baker Eddy, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a pope or Muhammad or almost anyone who claims alone to have the truth. Any rational person, however, should demand solid evidence before trusting his eternal destiny to a religious belief.
The Bible proves its validity with facts and real events of history prophesied thousands of years in advance, the fulfillment of which the world has witnessed. The same cannot be said for the Koran, Hindu Vedas, sayings of Buddha or Confucius, the Book of Mormon or for any other religious scriptures. Irwin H. Linton says it well in A Lawyer Examines the Bible: "To doubt is not sin, but to be contented to remain in doubt when God has provided 'many infallible proofs' to cure it, is."
These scholars give the impression that no intelligent person could possibly believe the Bible. On the contrary, many of the greatest minds in history (some of whom make present scholars look like mental midgets) have claimed that the Bible offers irrefutable proof of all it declares. So testified Daniel Webster, surely one of the greatest minds of recent centuries, who believed in Christ's virgin birth, deity, miracles, death for our sins and resurrection.
No one is better trained to examine evidence than members of the legal and law enforcement professions—and many of the greatest lawyers, judges and criminologists, humbly trembling at God's Word, have testified to faith in Christ based upon the evidence which they themselves have critically examined. Among these we find Sir Robert Anderson, head of the Criminal Investigation Division of Scotland Yard. Surely Anderson was one of the most capable investigators ever. His books are classics, especially The Coming Prince. It proved that Christ fulfilled the amazing prophecy in Daniel 9 foretelling the very day the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey and be hailed as such, then four days later be crucified. Anderson's Daniel in the Critics' Den confronted the critics' attempts to discredit the book of Daniel's amazing Bible-validating prophecies.
Lord Caldecote, Lord Chief Justice of England, declared, "...the New Testament... makes an overwhelming case...as a matter of strict evidence, for the facts therein stated...[including] the resurrection...." Lord Lyndhurst, one of England's greatest legal minds, declared, "I know pretty well what evidence is; and I tell you, such evidence as that for the Resurrection has never broken down yet." Professor Thomas Arnold, renowned English historian, said, "I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort...than [that] Christ died and rose again from the dead."
Likewise Simon Greenleaf, co-founder of the Harvard Graduate School of Law (according to US Supreme Court Chief Justice Fuller, "the highest authority cited in our courts"), after making an exhaustive examination of the evidence, embraced Christ as Saviour. Greenleaf wrote Testimony of the Evangelists (see Quotable), in which he declared that the Bible stood every test of evidence a court of law could impose and challenged fellow members of the legal profession to examine it honestly.
Many religious zealots have died as martyrs—but the martyrdom of the Apostles was unique. They died not only because of love and loyalty to Christ, but testifying to facts at the very foundation of Christianity: the virgin birth, deity, miracles, sinless life, death for our sins and resurrection of Christ. No man is fool enough to die for what he knows are lies. The Apostles all went to horrible deaths without even one of them buying reprieve by retracting his testimony concerning Christ.
Had we space, we could quote a host of the most eminent scholars, scientists, historians and lawyers echoing those quoted above in affirming on the basis of a careful examination of the Bible that it is true in every word. Why did not Jennings (and why do not the other TV specials, movies, conferences and symposiums lately "searching for the historical Jesus") call such witnesses to produce the overwhelming evidence for the validity of the Bible? Are they really concerned for truth?
Paul argued rightly that if Christ did not rise from the dead, He and the other Apostles were liars. These alleged scholars are saying that indeed the Apostles were liars, but that what they taught with their lies was so good that it has changed the world for the better. This makes no sense. How could lies possibly be the foundation for the greatest influence for good in all of history?
In fact, "the greatest story ever told" is all true. We must be convinced of this fact not just emotionally but on the basis of the solid evidence God has graciously provided in His Word. And as Christ's true disciples let us pass on this evidence to those in our churches, schools and homes. We must also use the evidence in our proclamation of the gospel, offering those we win to Christ a solid basis for their faith. Let us "search the Scriptures daily" to grow in His grace, love and Word, and let us communicate the irrefutable truth to others in the power of His Spirit. TBC