Thursday, December 24, 2015

Too Weird To Make Up

He was born out of wedlock. His adoptive father was of the line of Solomon, but married outside his station. He was born among animals and commoners. He and His family were refugees in a foreign country for most of His childhood. He was raised as the son of a carpenter.
In every way, Jesus did not fit the bill of what the Jews were looking in a messiah. He was not born in a palace among wealth. He was not raised to be a military leader. He was not one to parade His worth around, preferring exactly the opposite -- that those who met Him did not tell others who healed them, but gave that glory to God. Good grief, He wasn't even legitimate by Jewish standards!!!
Enter the story anywhere you wish, Jesus' story is not one that would appeal to the Jews to whom He was first sent. It is not one that they would accept at face value, because it's not one that they would expect. Even today, the Jews by and large reject Jesus ... and yet it's to them that Jesus first revealed Himself.
One might argue that the story of Jesus is a made-up one, but considering who this "made-up" story was marketed to, one needs only consider that this absolute failure to connect with its target audience, coupled by its survival past the first decade of its existence (to say nothing of the two thousand years that followed), is evidence enough that the story was true. Nobody would make up a story like this, because nobody would believe a story like this!
... if there wasn't something about the story that transcends the illegitimate child born in humility and laid in a feed trough.
The story of Christmas is the story of the unexpected, where a sinless God took upon Himself the redemption of a sinful world, paid the price Himself, and asked only that His redeemed love Him above themselves, and love all others as themselves. Nobody would make up a story like that, because nobody would believe a story like that. It's too far fetched that an Almighty, Glorious God would humble Himself so. It's too simple a formula for salvation from sins -- just accept Christ as Savior and submit to Him as Lord. That's it. No coded messages, no secret handshakes, no "favorite sons." Just love -- sacrificial, infinite, unconditional. Who would believe a story like that?!?
Well ... I do.
May the peace of the Lord be with you as you celebrate God's love this Christmas season.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas — Who gives a rip HOW we came up with the date we use?!?

Every year about this time, anti-Christian individuals and groups make their jabs about Christmas being pagan, celebrated on December 25 by Catholics and Protestants, and January 7 by the Orthodox. They typically bring up this evidence or that regarding Saturnalia, the winter solstice, or what have you, appealing to guilt by association rather than actually trying to understand the Christian mindset — then or now.
The thing is, regardless of whether or not the day chosen was originally pagan, what is important is that the day is set aside, and for the purposes it is set aside.
For just one example, George Washington’s birthday. According to the Julian calendar, which was in use at the time, Washington was born on February 11, 1731. Following the switch to the Gregorian calendar which we use today, his birthday “became” February 22.
Thing is, we don’t observe his birthday on either of those dates. Rather, we observe it — as well as Lincoln’s birthday (February 12, 1809) — on the third Monday in February. What’s important is NOT that we pick the right day, or what else is on the day that we pick, but the fact that we DO pick a day and set it aside for observation.
People throughout church history have been trying to peg down Jesus’ actual birthdate. Through my own research, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christ was most likely born on September 25, 6 BC — Tishri 15 by the Hebrew calendar, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. May be right, could be wrong, ultimately it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that when Christmas was “established,” Christians lived among pagans who had oodles of dates to celebrate this or that, whereas Christians had none — not even the Jewish holy days (because of the ignorant “the Jews killed Jesus” hatred that many had), and certainly none of those Jewish holy days recognized the birth of Someone they rejected as Messiah. So while pagans would celebrate their pagan beliefs on their given days, Christians could either choose to celebrate godly things instead or celebrate nothing at all. The church leaders, and through them, the church proper, chose the former.
That’s how Christians got the holidays we have. Just like Washington’s birthday not being observed on his actual birthday, Christmas is a day chosen to celebrate Christ’s birth, and chosen to give Christians something to celebrate instead of what else was being celebrated on that day — the winter solstice. Easter was established similarly as an alternative to the spring equinox, as well as the Jewish Passover. Halloween is the same thing — All Saints Eve (leading into All Saints Day) as an alternative to Samhain.
For non-Christians or anti-Christians to say that Christian holidays are essentially pagan is to completely disregard why people of any faith individually set aside days as holy in the first place. I completely agree that these holidays have been co-opted and commercialized to the point of them no longer being “holy” to many, but they still are to me — not because of the day they may fall on, but because of what they individually mean to me if no one else.


Editor's note: One of the main reasons December 25th was chosen has nothing to do with Saturnalia at all.  If it were intended to be a replacement for Saturnalia, why was it not on the same days?  (Roughly December 17-23.)  The choice of the 25th of December comes from an old tradition that Christ's death and conception took place on the same date.  The date for Christ's death, burial, and resurrection was placed around Easter time (around March 25th).  Conception plus nine months gives us December 25th for His birth.  Check out this blog for more info.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Undesigned Coincidences - An Introduction, Part 2

Welcome Back!

Welcome back gentle reader! Welcome to the second part of my Introduction to Undesigned Coincidences in the Bible. In the next few posts we will explore a few types of Undesigned Coincidences and you will see some examples of each using the Bible as a reference.  I picked these because they were less involved than some others that would require the cross-referencing of several passages.

So, without further ado…

Internal Coincidences

The first category we will look at will be coincidences that occur within the text of the Bible itself. These can be separated into several sub-categories including Same Book coincidences, Same Author coincidences, and Different Author coincidences. I have come up with these sub-categories myself simply for the convenience of organizing future blog posts. The only categories I have found in the literature (so far) are the basic internal/external ones.

Same-Book Coincidences

Some coincidences are found in different parts of the same book. Needless to say it will be assumed that the same author penned each section. For this category we will be using an example from John James Blunt’s “The Veracity of the Five Books of Moses” pp. 144-147. In this example we see that in Numbers 7:6-8:
6 So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7 He gave the Gershonites two carts and four oxen corresponding to their service, 8 and gave the Merarites four carts and eight oxen corresponding to their service, under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest. (Scripture quotes from HCSB)
Why did the Merarites get twice as many carts and oxen as the Gershonites? No explanation is given.
If we look back to Numbers 4:25, 26 we see the duties of the Gershonites were to:
25 They are to transport the tabernacle curtains, the tent of meeting with its covering and the covering made of manatee skin on top of it, the screen for the entrance to the tent of meeting, 26 the hangings of the courtyard, the screen for the entrance at the gate of the courtyard that surrounds the tabernacle and the altar, along with their ropes and all the equipment for their service.
And the duties of the Merarites:
31 This is what they are responsible to carry as the whole of their service at the tent of meeting: the supports of the tabernacle, with its crossbars, posts, and bases, 32 the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs, and ropes, including all their equipment and all the work related to them.
From comparing these two passages you can assume the likely explanation for the different wagon allotments was because the Gershonites were in charge of the lighter elements of the tabernacle, the curtains, canvases and hangings, while the Merarites were in charge of the heavier articles, the posts, bases and crossbars.

Several chapters that deal with various topics like a census, uncleanness, compensations, rituals, vows and blessings separate these two passages. The fact that the reason for the Merarites getting more wagons than the Gershonites was not explained, and that this passage was separated from the earlier passage, implies that the writer felt no need to give a reason, therefore implying common knowledge. A fiction writer would be more likely to want to put these passages together to tie up loose ends and provide an explanation. Though this may not be a wholly convincing example, nevertheless it is another strand in the rope.

Next Post

So, there we have it, short and sweet, but my first example of an Undesigned Coincidence. I know, it probably doesn’t give you “Church Shivers” to think about it, and it isn’t some knock-down argument. It is simply the first straw I am presenting, and you know what happens when you put too many straws on a camel’s back. In my next post we will look at an example of Same Author Coincidences using Paul’s letters in the New Testament.  I am currently reading through William Paley’s "Horae Paulinae" for an appropriate example.

Until next time,

Keep reading!