February 28, 2007

The other day the news outlets were all buzzing over the discovery of a tomb in Israel which had been discovered. Actually it was discovered over 25 years ago. Anyway apparently through some "scientific" studies these documentarians make the claim that these are the remains of the family of Jesus of Nazareth, including Jesus Himself. Of course, if this were true then 2000 years of theology & church tradition have been nothing more than the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the human race. However, it doesn't take much to make me very skeptical of this "discovery".

First, this tomb & the contents were uncovered in 1980. In case you didn't know Israel & the entire area of Palestine is crawling with archaeologists. The findings would have been looked over, & the names Jesus, Mary, Mary, & Judah would have been noticed. Why did it take 27 years for someone to dig deeper? The answer is this. Those names were unbelievably common in that day & time. Don't let the filmmakers throw the weight of statistics around. We all know that statistics can prove just about anything we want them to prove. The names, even in this combination, would not be that surprising, especially the male names. Many male names find their roots all the way back to the 12 sons of Jacob. Linguistically they would have been linked. It would have been similar to Maria/Mary, Robert/Bob, etc. The names on their own are pretty weak as evidence.

Secondly, DNA is touted as the definitive piece of evidence. However, there is one huge flaw in the process. The scientific method says that in an experiment you have to have a control. If these people are trying to convince us this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the Romans, then we need a piece of his DNA. Hair, blood, bone, anything that could definitively be tied to Him. In order for us to say that this is the Jesus, we have to have that control sample. The test they ran is a mitochondrial DNA test which only determines whether or not there is a maternal link between two people. They tested the "Jesus" DNA with one of the "Marys". They didn't have a maternal link, so they jump automatically to the conclusion that this is Jesus of Nazareth & His wife Mary Magdalene. That seems like a big leap to make without some other evidence linking them. And why didn't they run the DNA of Judah, the supposed son. If his DNA linked him to "Jesus" & "Mary" that would have made a much more compelling argument, but that test is remarkably absent.

And finally the most problematic piece of this puzzle in my opinion. If this is where Jesus was buried after His crucifixion & He did not rise from the dead, why would the people who followed Him in life go to their deaths preaching the resurrection? Also, why would the Jewish & Roman officials not have pointed to this tomb in the days following His crucifixion. It was only 7 weeks after the crucifixion that Pentecost occurred. In those early days of Christianity when it was seen more as a sect that was perverting Judaism, why didn't the Jewish religious leaders kill this new sect with the most destructive evidence possible, Jesus' body?

It just doesn't add up. The science is suspect at best, but more shocking is the lack of logic. Just a couple of years ago, these same filmmakers did a film supporting the claims of the Bible by "proving" the exodus really happened. So which is it? Christians have a much tougher standard of Scripture than non-believers. We believe that it is ALL true, & if one part is disproved the rest is just good stories & maybe some good moral tales, but the heart of it is worthless. I believe there is something else at work here. Every year it seems that we have these specials air that claim to discredit some part of Scripture. In recent years it has been the resurrection itself because if the resurrection is shown to be a fraud, then Christianity collapses & 2 billion people are sent scrambling to redefine their purpose on earth & their worldview. That thought is a little scary now that I think of it. However, the last 2000 years have seen attack after attack discredited not because the resurrection can be proven 100% but because these attacks are usually very flashy, but there usually isn't much substance to it. This attack on the person of Jesus Christ is no different. Watch the special Sunday night, don't be afraid to listen to what these people have to say, but keep in mind that their research was flawed & that they started their research with a preconceived answer rather than allowing the research to actually provide an answer, & that is not science.

February 6, 2007

What Can We Learn From Radical Islam?

I'm sure when you saw the title for this posting you had some reaction. It almost has to spark your curiosity. A lot of people want to dismiss this movement within Islam as a very small sub-group within one of the world's biggest religions, but it seems to me that that idea is born out of ignorance & a desire to avoid the confrontation that will come.

If you saw the Fox News special this weekend on radical Islam, you had to have been affected by it. I know that many media outlets in the Middle East overtly support Bin Laden & other terror leaders, but to see some of the actual things they show on TV to even their youngest children was chilling. While our kids are watching Dora the Explorer or The Suite Life of Zach & Cody, Muslim children are watching cartoons & other programming that glorifies suicide bombers & actively encourages children to make martyrdom their life's objective. Consequently, Muslim leaders claim that there is a tremendous influx of youth into this radical, suicidal arm of Islam. They feel that this martyrdom movement is their greatest weapon against the "infidels" & "Zionists".

As a Christian & as a pastor to teenagers here in America I couldn't help but wonder what we could learn from these people who are so desperate to "defend their faith" that they'll strap on a belt of TNT. In their world becoming a suicide bomber is one of the highest if not the highest calling, but in our culture most believers schedule God into their busy social lives. When they have time & nothing that they would rather be doing, then they will be involved in the life of their local church. The sad thing about that is that being in church doesn't necessarily mean that the believer has encountered God. Their heart could be in a totally different place, but they're in church in order to fulfill what they perceive as their obligation to God.

Of course I'm not advocating the brainwashing of our children & youth to become suicidal maniacs, but why not encourage our people to become the radical kind of disciple that Jesus clearly wants. Jesus never called any of His disciples to a life of convenience & comfort. In fact, life got worse for some of His followers. When Saul became Paul, his life took a turn toward persecution & near death experiences. Once he was an elite religious figure. He had position & status, but when he encountered Christ, he was changed. His radical faith led him to do amazing things across Asia Minor & Europe. If believers today would take their faith & their relationship with Jesus as serious as Muslims, the Kingdom of God would be advancing at an unprecedented pace. Islam would no longer be the world's fastest growing faith. The Gospel would touch the hearts of millions & they would turn from a faith that "loves death more than we love life" & to a Savior who wants to give us abundant life here on this earth & even more on the other side of eternity.

The lesson we can learn from the so-called radicals of Islam is that their passion is raging. However, the fire has all but gone out for many Christians in the U.S. Only when we fan the flames of faith in Christ & follow Him boldly & radically will we see the advance of His kingdom.