You Can Trust the Easter Story!



Easter Cross

By Tom Snyder, Ph.D.

This Easter Sunday, 2013, the History Channel will air the last part of its blockbuster miniseries, THE BIBLE.

The final episode will tell the story of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection from the Four Gospels in the New Testament and the story of the Apostle Paul’s deliverance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles from the Book of Acts.

The question arises, however:

Can you trust what the Bible says about the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Passover, Good Friday and Easter stories in the Bible?

Top scholars, historians, and experts have repeatedly confirmed that the Bible is the most historically and intellectually reliable ancient text in the whole world, including the Bible’s account of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles and disciples who wrote the New Testament documents. Consider, for example, the work of numerous top scholars, historians and experts such as C.S. Lewis, Gary Habermas, F.F. Bruce, William Lane Craig, John A.T. Robinson, John Warwick Montgomery, Bruce Metzger, Simon Greenleaf, Stuart C. Hackett, J. Gresham Machen, Ronald Nash, Edwin Yamauchi, Craig Blomberg, John Wenham, Lee Strobel, Paul Maier, Michael R. Licona, and N.T. Wright.

These people are wonderfully astute thinkers, investigators and writers. They have refuted all of the important lies, half-truths, and silly comments against Jesus, Christianity and the Bible made by non-Christians and even by some allegedly former Christians.

Not only can you have complete faith in the New Testament documents and what they say about the virgin birth, divinity, crucifixion, resurrection, and teachings of Jesus Christ, but you can also rely on what they say about non-Christian places, people and events, such as the names and titles of Roman government officials. In fact, the New Testament writer Luke (the books of Luke and Acts), the medical companion of Paul, an apostle appointed by Jesus Christ Himself and accepted by Christ’s other major apostles, including Peter, specifically says in Luke 1:3 that he “carefully investigated everything” he writes in Luke and Acts to Theophilus and other assumed readers.

In a court of law, the burden of proof for denying the credibility of an eyewitness falls on those who wish to undermine that credibility. An eyewitness should therefore be given the benefit of the doubt “unless we have clear evidence to the contrary.”1 Since, however, the New Testament books make great demands on people and their lifestyles, it seems fair to ask what is the evidence to support the historical reliability of these ancient documents.

Historians use two standard tests for determining the reliability of an ancient document like the New Testament documents.

The first test is the bibliographic test. This test asks three questions:  1) How many copies and fragments of copies do we have of a particular document? 2) Are the copies basically the same, or do they show a wide variety of differences, indicating they have undergone an extensive amount of editing or redaction? 3) What is the time gap between the dates of the copies we have and the approximate date on which the document was probably written?  The more copies we have, the less editing they have undergone, and the closer the time gap, the more accurate they seem to be and the more reliable the text of the document is.

Using this test, how does the New Testament stack up?

As biblical scholar John A.T. Robinson and other scholars attest, the New Testament books were probably written between 40 A.D. and 70 A.D., although some scholars believe the Apostle John wrote John and Revelation about 95 A.D. or so. The earliest complete copies we have, excluding small fragments, some of which are dated from about 44 A.D. to 130 A.D., can be dated between 300 and 400 A.D., or 260-360 years later. In total, however, we have more than 5,000 Greek copies and fragments, 10,000 Latin Vulgate copies and fragments, and 9,000 other versions of the New Testament dated between 40 and 1200 A.D. In comparison, we have only 643 manuscripts (copies and fragments) of Homer’s Iliad, written about 900 BC, with the earliest extant copy dated 400 BC, 500 years later. Also, we have only ten copies of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, written 58 to 50 BC, with the earliest copy dated 900 A.D., a gap of almost 1,000 years, and only 21 copies or fragments of the works of Tacitus, written about 100 A.D., with the earliest copy or fragment dated 1000 A.D., a span of 900 years.

According to New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger, only 40 lines, or about 400 words, of the 20,000 lines in the New Testament documents are seriously in doubt. In contrast, Homer’s Iliad contains approximately 15,600 lines, but 764 lines have been questioned by scholars. As, Christian scholar and philosopher Norman L. Geisler writes, “The New Testament writings are superior to comparable ancient writings. The records for the New Testament are vastly more abundant, clearly more ancient, and considerably more accurate in their text.”2

Copies of manuscripts are not the only source of our knowledge about the New Testament documents, however.

Before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the writings of the Ante-Nicene church fathers contain about 32,000 citations of the New Testament text. “Virtually the entire New Testament could be reproduced from citations contained in the works of the early church fathers,” says Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland.3 Furthermore, although every church father does not quote every book of the New Testament, every book is quoted as authoritative and authentic by some important church father. This indicates that the New Testament writings were “recognized as apostolic [originating from Jesus Christ’s own appointed church leaders] from the very beginning.”4

There is no reason, therefore, to doubt the accuracy of the copies of the New Testament. The bibliographic test clearly shows that the text of the New Testament has not been significantly altered by the Christian church. We can trust that the translations we now have are as close to the original writings as possible.

The second test historians use to determine the reliability of an ancient document is the external test. In this test, historians look at what external sources say about the document.

We have already mentioned the testimony of the early church fathers with regard to the bibliographic test. Their testimony also satisfies the external test.

For instance, several second century fathers affirm that the book of John in the New Testament was written by the Apostle John. These writers include Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Theophilus of Antioch, and Tertullian of Carthage.

The testimony of Irenaeus is important “because he had been a student of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (martyred in 156 A.D. after being a Christian for 86 years), and Polycarp in turn had been a disciple of the Apostle John himself.”5 Not only does Irenaeus affirm the authorship of John’s gospel, he also reports that Matthew produced his gospel for the Jews, perhaps in Aramaic, while Peter and Paul were founding the Christian church in Rome (about 55 A.D.). Irenaeus also writes that Mark, Peter’s disciple, set down his gospel after Peter’s death, around 65 A.D., and that Paul’s friend Luke wrote his gospel sometime thereafter. In a letter to his colleague Florinus, quoted by church historian Eusebius, Irenaeus mentions how both he and Florinus had heard Polycarp talk about what John and other witnesses had told Polycarp about Jesus.

According to Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, writing between 130 and 140 A.D., the Apostle Matthew compiled a collection of Jesus’ sayings in Aramaic, which Papias says many people later translated into Greek. Papias also testifies that the Apostle John told Papias that Mark composed his gospel on the basis of information supplied by the Apostle Peter himself.

Finally, we have the Apostle Paul’s testimony in his own letters, which are among the earliest of all New Testament writings. Paul’s letter to the Galatians has been dated as early as 48 A.D. The dates of his other letters may be established as follows:  1 and 2 Thessalonians, 50 A.D.; 1 and 2 Corinthians, 54-56 A.D.; Romans, 57 A.D.; and Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians, around 60 A.D. Many scholars, including more liberal ones, believe that Paul’s description of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15 can be traced back to an ancient catechism from the early to middle 30s A.D.! There are many other early creedal passages in the New Testament documents like this one from 1 Corinthians, such as Philippians 2:6-11 and John 1:1-18.

The New Testament documents are also consistent with the external evidence from ancient non-Christian sources. Even the Jewish Talmud contains references to Jesus Christ and five of the disciples. These references say Jesus was a sorcerer who led the people astray and who came to add things to the Jewish law. Eventually, they say, Jesus was executed on the eve of Passover for heresy and for misleading the Jewish people. Following his death, his disciples healed the sick in his name.6

Although portions of his text are in doubt, Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote about 90 A.D., mentions John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and James, the brother of Jesus. According to New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce, we have “very good reason for believing”7 that Josephus confirms the dates of Christ’s ministry, his reputation for practicing “wonders” of some kind, his kinship to James, his crucifixion by Pilate, his messianic claim, and the fact that his disciples believed Jesus rose physically from the dead.

Cornelius Tacitus, the “greatest Roman historian in the days of the Empire,”8 refers to Jesus Christ’s execution under Pilate and relates Roman Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians after the great fire ravaged Rome in 64 A.D. Also, writing in 112 A.D., C. Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Younger), governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, wrote to Emperor Trajan asking for advice about how to deal with troublesome Christians. In his letter, Pliny reports that the Christians meet on a fixed day to pray to Christ as God and promise each other to follow certain moral standards. He also says they refuse to curse the name of Jesus. The evidence from Pliny, and others, clearly shows that the Early Christians did indeed worship Jesus Christ as God. This worship is confirmed by the writings of Ignatius, a major leader of the early Christian church.

The New Testament writings are themselves full of references to secular history in the first century. Archeological evidence confirms many of these references to historical events and persons and to political factions, geographical areas, social differences, etc. For instance, the Apostle John in his gospel displays accurate knowledge about buildings and landscapes in Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside before 70 A.D. Luke, the author of the third gospel and the book of Acts, has been especially cited for his sense of the historical context in the first century A.D. His books contain many references to the imperial history of Rome and a detailed chronicle of the Herod family. Luke is also very accurate in his use of various official titles in the Roman Empire, no mean feat considering the fact they sometimes changed titles in a short period of time during switchovers in administrations. Also, according to one study Luke accurately shows knowledge of some “32 countries, 54 cities and nine islands.”9

Luke’s description of the founding and rise of the Christian church in Acts also matches what we know from other historical writings and archeology. Acts itself contains several instances where the apostles and various local churches receive reports from other Christians about efforts to spread the message of Jesus Christ. This habit of giving reports adds to the historical credibility of the New Testament accounts. Thus, as St. Paul notes in Chapter 26 of Acts, all these things were not done in a corner, they were common knowledge.

The writers of the New Testament, most of whom knew Jesus personally, had a strong motive to obey the warnings of the Roman and Jewish authorities to stop preaching about Jesus. Instead, these men did the opposite and risked their lives and physical well-being to preach the good news of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. They preached repeatedly and openly in the Jewish synagogues, leaving themselves vulnerable to the hostile Jewish religious leadership.

“The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies,” says historian John Warwick Montgomery, “which would at once be exposed by those who would be only too glad to do so.”10 Yet they never hesitated to confront Jewish leaders, hostile pagan forces, and even the Roman authorities. They endured rejection, persecution, torture, and even death. If their testimony was full of holes, how could they have gotten away with such bad testimony? If the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not occur, how do we account for the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances by Jesus?

The Jews and pagans who opposed the apostles had the means, motive, and opportunity to completely refute the evidence for Jesus Christ’s resurrection and the content of His teachings, yet they never could shake the eyewitness testimony of the first Christian evangelists. These hostile witnesses failed to produce the kind of solid evidence that would overturn the first Christians’ testimony about Jesus Christ, including the meaning of Jesus Christ’s life and sacrificial death on the cross. Thus, the eyewitnesses among Christ’s disciples passed the test of their own cross-examination with flying colors!

According to the New Testament documents, Jesus Christ proved his claim to be God by his bodily resurrection from the dead and gave his disciples “many convincing proofs that he was alive (Acts 1:3).” He appeared to more than 500 people at one time, most of whom were still living over 15 years later, when the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-6). He also appeared to nonbelievers and hostile skeptics like his brother James, the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Thomas. He also gave special authority and power to all of his apostles, who themselves performed public miracles.

Finally, the New Testament writings are internally consistent. None of the documents deny the resurrection and most of them explicitly proclaim it. Although the documents contain passages that are difficult to interpret or create questions about the text, many books have been written which clear up these textual problems. Among the best ones are John W. Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (Springdale, PA:  Whitaker House) and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1982).

Even if someone could prove there are unresolvable problems in the New Testament text, however, “they cannot be used as evidence to prove that the resurrection did not take place.”[i] Neither would they necessarily affect essential Christian teachings. For example, Greek historian Polybius and Roman historian Livy disagree over what route Hannibal took when he crossed the Alps, but both agree he arrived in Italy.

The fact is, the New Testament documents do agree with one another. They do not contradict each other. All of them teach the following:  Jesus underwent a public execution. His death was certified by the Roman authorities. He was placed in a private tomb, the location of which was known. Jesus then appeared to his female disciples and to the male apostles. He commanded them to lead all people into repentance, belief and forgiveness of sins in the name of the Triune God (Matthew 28:18-20). The internal consistency of these documents in these matters is beyond reproach.

When all is said and done, the evidence for the historical reliability of the New Testament documents is in fact better than the evidence for Julius Caesar or any other historical figure in the ancient world.

“We are confronted with a hard core of historical fact,” writes F. F. Bruce: “(a) the tomb was really empty; (b) the Lord appeared to various individuals and groups of disciples both in Judea and Galilee; (c) the Jewish authorities could not disprove the disciples’ claim that He had risen from the dead.”12 Adds Bruce Metzger, “The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. Nothing in history is more certain than that the disciples believed that, after being crucified, dead, and buried, Christ rose again from the tomb on the third day, and that at intervals thereafter he met and conversed with them.”13

Though Dr. Metzger wrote these words in the early 1980s, recent scholars taking a fresh look at all the evidence still agree with him. As Michael R. Licona notes in his excellent, comprehensive examination, published in 2010, The Resurrection of Jesus, “There is superb evidence that the earliest Christians understood that Jesus’ corpse had been raised and transformed, and that is what Paul and the original disciples believed they had seen.”14 Licona says it’s also significant that external, non-biblical sources have confirmed that the First Century Church’s first persecutor, Paul, was converted after seeing the risen Christ, and that his skeptical brother, James, also became a martyred believer after seeing the resurrected Jesus.15

Thus, we can have complete trust and faith not only in what the Bible teaches us about Jesus Christ and His life, death and resurrection, and in the basic story presented by “The Nativity Story” movie and countless other media representations, such as the 2013 Bible miniseries on Cable TV and the recent movie, “Son of God.”

Christianity is the only religion that can be verified objectively by historical evidence, including external historical sources. The New Testament’s depiction of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ does not violate the basic laws of logic. It fits the facts. Turn away from sin and evil. Submit your heart, mind, and strength to the Triune God, by the power of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross.

As the Apostle John writes in John 1:14, “The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus Christ died for your sins. Turn away from your sins, confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will indeed be baptized and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and receive eternal life.

Endnotes

 1. Bob Passantino, “Contend Earnestly for the Faith: How Far Can We Trust the Bible?” (Costa Mesa, CA: Answers in Action).

2. Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), 308.

3. J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City:  A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 136.

4. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 108.

5. John Warwick Montgomery, Where Is History Going? (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1969), 48.

6. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable? (Madison, Wisconsin: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 100-102.

7. Bruce, 112.

8. Bruce, 117.

9. Lee Strobel, The Case for the Resurrection:  A First century Reporter Investigates the Story of the Cross. (Grand Rapids:  Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), 12.

10. Montgomery, 51.

11. Bruce M. Metzger, The New Testament:  Its Background, Growth, and Content, 2nd edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983), 127f.

12. Bruce, 65.

13. Metzger, 126.

14. Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus:  A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2010), 621.

15. Strobel, 48-49.

 

For more information about the New Testament, see the following:

Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable? Madison, Wisconsin:  InterVarsity Press, 1987.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament History. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith:  Christian Truth and Apologetics. Third Edition. Wheaton, Illinois:  Crossway Books, 2008.

Geisler, Norman L. Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1989.

Habermas, Gary. The Verdict of History: Conclusive Evidence for the Life of Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. The Uses of the Old Testament in the New. Chicago:  Moody Press, 1985.

Machen, J. Gresham. The Origin of Paul’s Religion. Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1947.

McDowell, Josh, and Bill Wilson. He Walked Among Us:  Evidence for the Historical Jesus. San Bernardino, CA:  Here’s Life Publishers, 1988.

Montgomery, John Warwick. Human Rights & Human Dignity. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1986. 131-160.

Montgomery, John Warwick. Where Is History Going? Minneapolis:  Bethany House, 1969.

Moreland, J. P. Moreland. Scaling the Secular City:  A Defense of Christianity. Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1987.

Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew:  Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Vol. 1 and 2. New York:  Doubleday, 1991 and 1994.

Metzger, Bruce M. The New Testament:  Its Background, Growth, and Content, 2nd edition. Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1983.

Nash, Ronald H. Christianity and the Hellenistic World. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1984.

Nash, Ronald H. Faith & Reason:  Searching for a Rational Faith. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1988.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ:  A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence  for Jesus. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1998.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2007.

Thiede, Carsten Peter, and Matthew D’Ancona. Eyewitness to Jesus:  Amazing New Manuscript Evidence About the Origin of the Gospels. New York:  Doubleday, 1996.

Thiede, Carsten Peter. Jesus, Man or Myth? United Kingdom:  Lion, 2005.

Wenham, John. Christ and the Bible. London:  Tyndale Press, 2009.

Wenham, John. Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke. Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Wilkins, Michael J., and J. P. Moreland. Jesus Under Fire. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1995.

Note:  For even more info, there are some other great Christian apologetics websites with other valuable resource materials, including William Lane Craig’s www.reasonablefaith.orgwww.equip.orgwww.apologeticsinfo.orgwww.answers.org, and www.theculturewatch.com.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2



HAUNTED HOUSE 2 is an abhorrent, unfunny comedy horror movie spoofing many of the previous year’s horror movies.
Malcolm Johnson is a young African American man running from his demon possessed girlfriend Kisha who was in the first movie. When Malcolm, his cousin and Kisha are in a car accident, it looks as if Kisha died, giving him the opportunity to be done with her. Malcolm and his cousin leave the scene of the accident.
One year later, Malcolm is beginning to live with his new girlfriend Megan and her two children; teenage rebel Becky and her younger brother. As they settle, Malcolm begins to notice strange things around the house. He discovers that a demon haunts the house along with a creepy doll. To make things worse, his ex-girlfriend Kisha isn’t dead and continues to haunt him.
As he videotapes his findings and tries to investigate the paranormal occurrences with the help of a meth-cooking professor, Malcolm becomes even more erratic in his behavior (as if that was possible). Also, the foul-mouthed “Father Doug” shows up at the end to help perform an exorcism in a very offensive scene.
A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 is extremely crude and pointless. Marlon Wayans who wrote and starred in the movie shows his own incompetence as a comedian by constantly resorting to unoriginal jokes, stereotypes, and sexual gags. Nearly every plot point is directly taken from other movies, especially the climactic scene that, in an unfunny way, spoofs last year’s THE CONJURING.
This empty, lewd, offensive movie will find most audiences, media wise or not, rethinking their decision to see it. The constant foul language and extremely crude humor is accompanied by strong drug references and very strong Anti-Christian elements mocking the church, clergy, and the Holy Trinity, and making light of the supernatural and the occult.

MAKE YOUR MOVE



MAKE YOUR MOVE is an energetic dance drama about a young ex-convict trying to make a dance career in New York City, where he also falls in love with another dancer. MAKE YOUR MOVE has some moral elements, and the climax takes place in an abandoned church, but the movie otherwise takes place in a Post-Christian urban world.
The movie stars David Hough, the charismatic five-time winner of television’s DANCING WITH THE STARS. David plays Donny, an ex-convict on parole on the streets of New Orleans. Donny tries to earn a living as a dancing street performer, but his parole officer tells him to get a real job.
So, with help from a friend in New Orleans, Donny decides to secretly skip out on his parole. His destination is New York City, where his foster brother, an African American man named Nick, who runs one of the hottest underground dance clubs. Complications ensue when Donny falls for Aya, the sister of Oto, Nick’s former Korean business partner.
The two young lovers become stuck between Nick and Oto’s feud. Donny wants to do new things with dance by mixing styles. Aya has a girl group that mixes hip-hop dance with Japanese drumming. Will their brothers ever give them a chance to make their move in career and love?
MAKE YOUR MOVE is an energetic, entertaining musical drama, with plenty of modern dancing and music. If it reminds people too much like a lightweight WEST SIDE STORY, well, that may be a timeworn formula, but the movie is captivating nevertheless.
The movie’s premise is somewhat moral and redemptive in the sense that it’s the love between the two lead characters that solves the plot problem and brings everyone together. In fact, things are resolved when Donny decides to convert an abandoned church to showcase his and Aya’s talent and bring their brothers together. Despite that, the movie focuses on feelings and being successful, so MAKE YOUR MOVE also has some Romantic, pagan elements. Those elements include some relatively light and strong obscenities, sensual dancing, and an implied sex scene. That said, the young hero doesn’t get away with skipping parole. He ends up doing the right thing, and his girlfriend promises to wait for him while he serves out his parole.
MAKE YOUR MOVE clearly takes place in a Post-Christian urban world. It still manages, however, to deliver some uplifting, entertaining moments. Most of the dances (but not every one) are fairly clean and can be enjoyed by a broad audience.

TRANCENDENCE



TRANSCENDENCE rises above the typical pyrotechnics of recent science fiction to deliver a very thought provoking look at science getting out of hand. Fairly clean, well made, and acted, it literally asks, “Do you want to make your own God?”
Johnny Depp plays Will Caster, a brilliant scientist pressing the frontiers of artificial intelligence. Rebecca Hall plays his fellow scientist wife, Evelyn, who loves the possibility of using artificial intelligence to cure cancer, end poverty, and clean up the environment. Their charmed life is shattered when some radicals who believe artificial intelligence is dangerous shoot Will. Will survives the shooting, but the bullet turns out to be highly radioactive.
As Will’s life slips away over a month’s time, Evelyn decides to try to save his mind by uploading it to a computer. She and their friend, Max, succeed, even when being attacked by radicals trying to stop them.
When Will’s uploaded to the Internet, his powers expand exponentially. He’s able to study the entire world’s surveillance cameras and alert the FBI to where the anti-technology people are hiding. He even discovers ways to regenerate severely injured bodies and give sight to a man born blind. However, there are drawbacks to such power. He knows everything about everyone. Also, those he has healed have super strength and live almost as his drones. In fact, he uses nano-technology to connect all of them to him through the Internet.
With Max’s help, the FBI decides to work with the anti-technology radicals to stop Will.
It’s actually refreshing to see a science fiction movie where a major threat to life on earth is not posed by Godzilla, evil Transformers, or any huge flying objects going around destroying cities. In an age when government agencies have access to every phone call or mouse click, and enemies can be taken out by soldiers at consoles controlling drones, this is a movie that will make you think. Do we want a cure to cancer if the price is programmed cells? Do we want more security if the price is the complete elimination of privacy?
Early in the movie, Will is asked if he wants to play God. This is a valid question. Will was working on “transcendence,” which he considered the use of supercomputers to add powers beyond the imagination to an uploaded human mind. Consider the similarity. God knows our every thought. God knows our motives. God made children who scrape their knees to regrow perfect skin. God made mankind capable of building artificial intelligence, atomic bombs, and surveillance cameras. We are living in a time when we expect technology to find astounding cures, but also to build ever more horrifying weapons. We live in an age where a small gift to a politically incorrect cause can cost you your job 15 years later. We live in an age where information gathered by the IRS and other government agencies can trigger politically motivated audits and prosecutions.
TRANCENDENCE does a wonderful job of causing viewers to think. How far do we want technology to go? What keeps it from being misused? Can it be stopped? Should it be stopped?
Those who obey God will use technology as God desires. Those who disobey God can misuse technology in frightening ways.
TRANSCENDENCE has a less than satisfying resolution, along with a couple possible plot holes, but the trip there is some of the best science fiction in years. It has less foul language and less violence than most of today’s science fiction movies. Not a single block of a major city gets blown to bits, but the world is radically changed.

Easter Hope – Based on Facts of History



Hope-Slider

By Jerry Newcombe, Contributing Writer

Jesus sells. That’s why they have cover stories on Him in magazines and TV specials, even if some of them offer strange theories to try to explain away things like the original Easter.

I’ll never forget the evolution of a famous TV newsman, the late Peter Jennings, the anchor ABC’s nightly news broadcasts.

In 2000, Jennings hosted a special, “The Search for Jesus.” He never found Him because he relied almost entirely on liberal Bible scholars who dismissed the reliability of the Gospel accounts. The special, though well done, needlessly cast doubt on all the basics about Jesus.

But in 2004, Jennings hosted another ABC special, on Jesus and Paul. This special was fairer, at least they featured an occasional conservative scholar, such as the great Dr. Paul L. Maier.

During that 2004 special, Jennings was walking around Rome, observing that Peter and Paul, two key leaders in the early Church, were absolute nobodies in the first century when they came to that city. They were total outcasts, and both were put to death there as martyrs for their faith. Yet now these two dominate the city. As does, of course, the Jesus they served.

When Jesus walked out of the tomb, He changed history. This is 2014 because Jesus was born circa 2014 years ago. We wouldn’t be talking about Him if He had stayed dead.

The famous skeptic David Hume argued that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead because dead men don’t rise from the dead. True, they normally don’t. However, that’s what makes Jesus’ case so special. Hume employed circular reasoning here. But the Christian does not.

I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, only because the Bible says so (which would be circular reasoning). Actually, I believe in the Bible, largely because of the historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

The biggest single reason I believe Jesus walked out of that tomb bodily is because the disciples were so transformed. At Jesus’ death, they had been very scared. Peter, their leader, denied three times that he knew Him, just to save his skin.

But then something happened that transformed them and made them unstoppable. They claimed that they saw Him risen from the dead, not just once, but many times. They were not wallowing in credulity. In fact, if you read the Gospels, we see that many of the disciples were the original skeptics of the resurrection. We even have the common phrase “Doubting Thomas” because Thomas didn’t believe it—until he saw Jesus alive.

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing many leading Jesus scholars (both believers and skeptics) on the questions of who is Jesus, are the Gospels reliable, and did He rise from the dead?
All of them, even the most skeptical, agree at least on this: The disciples were convinced that they saw Jesus risen from the dead. The skeptics don’t think He arose, but they acknowledge that  the disciples absolutely thought so.

How else do you explain their fearless preaching to the ends of the known world (and beyond)? There is historical evidence that ten of the remaining eleven apostles (twelve minus Judas) died a horrible martyr’s death. Only John lived to old age, though he was reportedly boiled in hot oil.
None of them denied that Jesus rose from the dead after He died to provide forgiveness for fallen humanity. No, not one. They sealed their testimony in their own blood.

But, you say, people die all the time for what is a lie. Perhaps—but not knowingly so. If the disciples were a part of some supposed “Passover Plot,” if they had stolen the body and made up this story, would they have given their lives for what they knew was a lie?

Historian Dr. Paul Maier once told me, “Myths do not make martyrs. And if this story had been invented, they would not have gone to death for it. If Peter had invented the account as he’s ready to be hoisted up on a cross in Rome, he would’ve blown the whistle and said, ‘Hold it! I’ll plea bargain with you. I’ll tell you how we did it, if I can come off with my life.’”

British theologian N. T. Wright noted, “The disciples, at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, were completely devastated….Since everybody knew that a crucified Messiah was a failed Messiah, the only thing which explains why they said Jesus was the Messiah is that they really did believe that He had been bodily raised from the dead.”
Jesus’ resurrection on a Sunday changed the day of worship for the church, and established it as a day of rest. Each Sunday through much of the world now serves as a weekly reminder of that resurrection. Thus, even the atheist who sleeps in this Sunday morning will be ironically paying homage to Jesus’ walking out of the tomb 2000 years ago. He is risen indeed.

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Editor’s Note:  Dr. Jerry Newcombe is a TV producer and the cohost of Kennedy Classics. He has also written or co-written 24 books, including The Book that Made America and (with Dr. Kennedy) What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with Peter Lillback), George Washington’s Sacred Fire. Jerry hosts gracenetradio.com Thursdays at noon (EST). www.tiam.org. @newcombejerry

BEARS



BEARS is an adorable Disney Nature movie following a Momma Bear and her cubs. BEARS is a great movie for the entire family, though some young children may get scared from the bears fighting.
In beautiful Alaska, a momma bear and her two little cubs wake up from hibernation. The cubs and momma have been in their hibernation hole for months. Momma bear, called Sky in the movie, needs some food.
Sky and her two little cubs, Scout and Amber, come out of their hole to start the perilous but necessary trek to gather food. Amber is the little female cub who is shy and stays around her mother, while Scout is the adventurous cub, who wants to see and learn about everything. The three trek over huge mountains while the spring is coming. Once they arrive at a nearby meadow, Sky is able to get some much-needed sustenance, but she must journey further to get what is really needed, protein.
At the meadow, Scout is surprised to find other bears. He never knew there was such a thing. Excitedly, little Scout looks toward the other bears for a model on how to be a strong, confident bear. Scout doesn’t find one right away, but he has a good mother to support him.
Along the way, Sky, Amber and Scout come across some dangerous things, including one of the largest bears, weighing 1,000 pounds, looking for food. This bear is so hungry he could eat anything, including little bear cubs. At the same time, there is a wolf also on the hunt for Amber and Scout.
In every instance, Sky must be on the lookout for her cubs. In the end, Scout finds out that his mentor is right in front of him, his loving and protective mother.
BEARS is an adorable documentary. Disney has once again given heart, drama, and intrigue to nature that will teach children while they are entertained. Wonderfully crafting a story line, even giving the animals names, Disney has done a great job at keeping viewers fully entertained. BEARS is a beautifully crafted movie that has no real objectionable elements, though very young children may get scared when the bears fight. No blood is shown, however.

I Thought I Knew How Christians Should Act Toward Hollywood, Until I Read This. . .



By-their-love-slider

By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher, with Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor

Twenty years ago, when Jesus’ name was used in a movie, it was usually used as a curse word. Last year, 67 percent of the movies released had at least some pro-Christian, pro-biblical content. This year, in 2014, an incredible number of the major movies being released have positive, overt biblical, and often evangelical, content. As might be expected, many of these movies have attracted criticism. Sadly, some of the most spiteful, angry and mean-spirited criticism has come from Christians.

MOVIEGUIDE® was built on the premise of exposing the fruitless works of darkness and commending the good. As a result of doing this consistently for many years, we have seen a great growth of the Good, the True and the Beautiful, and a decrease in the darkness in the movies released. Much of that could be attributed to our detailed economic analysis of the box office, combined with the fact that we see the Gospel for what it is: Good News! So, we try to present our analysis and criticism in light of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control), which dictates that we love the people who created the works we’re examining enough to try to be constructive. There are exceptions, but the exceptions are not the rule.

Recently, there’s been a tremendous amount of criticism bashing Darren Aronofsky and the producers of NOAH, criticizing Roma Downey and Mark Burnett for SON OF GOD, and even criticizing the producers of HEAVEN IS FOR REAL. Recently, I had a chance to talk to one of the top people at Paramount Pictures, whom I’ve known for years, who’s a co-producer of NOAH. He had told me about NOAH years ago when we met for lunch. He wanted NOAH to be very evangelistic, which it is not, and he wanted to tell an Old Testament story in light of the New Testament revelation of God’s grace. I asked him about Darren Aronofsky, and he said Aronofsky was wrestling with forgiveness and mercy because of a crisis in his family. The producer, one of the brightest, most conservative Christians in Hollywood, noted that the same thing had happened to him. We discussed the fact that Mel Gibson had been bashed so badly for the trumped up charge of Anti-Semitism that he went off the deep end. There is no doubt that my friend, and Aronofsky, needed guidance and perhaps even faith formation, but personal, ill-conceived attacks don’t make it easier for him, as a conservative evangelical Christian, to do more movies that touch upon Christian and biblical themes.

With regard to Roma and Mark, the situation seems even more mean spirited. One attack article claimed THE PASSION OF CHRIST was more biblical, when, in fact, THE PASSION was based on visions a Catholic nun had had over one hundred years ago. Other articles commended the JESUS film, which, for the record, is only 66% of the Book of Luke and is produced by a good friend of mine who is Jewish and extremely wary of the Christian community, and a director who’s known for some very salacious movies. In fact, the star of the JESUS film told me years later he was an atheist. Also, JESUS OF NAZARETH was funded by a Muslim and directed by a bi-sexual who chased one of the male stars around his villa.

Thus, of all the 130 Jesus films that have come out, Mark and Roma’s SON OF GOD is one of the few made by people who constantly say they love Jesus. That doesn’t mean they got everything right. In fact, I sent them a theological analysis months before the movie was locked in editing.

In this regard, however, has any sermon ever gotten everything right? If so, I have yet to hear such a sermon, though I have walked out several times on sermons that have gotten most of their theology wrong.

Many of the mean-spirited articles about NOAH have been written by people who admit to having never seen the movie. Others have been written by people who don’t seem to understand some of the Bible’s basic theological concepts or realize the difference between a Christian ontology (a real world, with real sin and real pain, that needs a real Savior, Jesus Christ) and an anti-Christian, nominalistic ontology (a non-material, great thought, maya world where all is an illusion and there is no need for a savior, such as THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST).

MOVIEGUIDE® has been critical of NOAH, but also fair. We’d love to see the theology of each movie improved and would love to see the theology of most of these articles improved.

One theologian complained to us that, unlike HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, no one has gone from Heaven and come back, although I pointed out to him that Paul said he did just that in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Was Paul lying? Where do we get such strange eisegetical views?

Thank God that iron does sharpen iron.

But even so, what enabled a small group of Christians to overthrow the most debauched Empire in history, Rome? As Professor Alvin J Schmidt points out in the book How Christianity Changed the World, one major reason was that people knew the Christians by their love and wanted to convert.

Did the people who criticized Mel Gibson love him? Or, those who criticize any of the Christians working behind the scenes in Hollywood?

Most biblical movies, and most movies dealing with Heaven, contain things that you won’t find in the pages of the Bible. To make a really dramatic movie that millions of people will go see requires at least some dramatic artistry. Furthermore, it’s really easy to poke holes in almost any movie, whatever the subject matter.

So, let us commend the good while gently instructing those who might have gone astray so that we may encourage everyone to focus on the Good News of Jesus Christ that enlightens us all.

 

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