Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Marriage is Like a House

In my last post, I explained the importance of women as supporters of their husbands and in caring for the home and children. To explain the roles of husband and wife further, here is an analogy.


Image courtesy of http://bestclipartblog.com
A marriage is like a house. The wife is the walls and the husband is the roof. Which one is more important? Neither. A house without a roof is useless. A house without walls isn’t a house. They are equally important. Both are necessary to the design and each has their role in creating the house and in making it effective at its purpose. But their roles are not the same.

The husband is like the roof because the primary purpose of a house is to have “a roof over your head.” There’s a reason people use that saying. In the same way, it is the husband’s responsibility to set the overall goal or purpose for the family and carry it out.

A roof is also necessary for protection from wind and rain and falling objects. In the same way, a husband’s role is that of protector for his family. His job is to keep outside forces that may harm his family – whether physically or spiritually – away from his wife and children.

The wife is like the walls. The primary purpose of the walls is to hold up the roof. In the same way, a wife’s primary role is to support her husband. Without the support of the walls, the roof will collapse and fail to provide protection. A roof that is not supported cannot carry out the purpose of the house. Similarly, the wife needs to support her husband so that he can carry out the goals of the family.

A wife is also like the walls of a house because intact walls are necessary to having a warm and inviting home. If one were to have a roof barely supported by pillars, but with no intact walls, it would be very cold and comfortless. A wife in the home is necessary to having the kind of environment that is inviting, warm, and allows a husband to recharge his energy for completing his tasks.

So while husbands and wives do not have the same roles, they are equally necessary. In a good marriage, a husband and wife use their different strengths to work together for the purpose of building a home that is strong, intact, and effective at its purpose.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Vital Importance of a Wife and Mother at Home

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my views on marriage and family and women working outside the home and whether women are supposed to support their husbands rather than having their own goals and careers. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

In general, I think women are called to be a supporter to their husband's calling. But that does not mean that their contribution is less important. God sees a husband and wife as a team, a single unit. So a husband's calling is the wife’s calling because the two of them are one.

We live in a culture that sees us primarily as individuals who simply make associations with each other. Marriage is generally seen as just a partnership between two separate people. The Christian view of marriage, however, is radically different. The Bible says that the two become one. Not two that have a connection, but one. God doesn't give separate overall missions to each individual person. There is only one overall calling for that one marriage entity. A husband and wife are a family and have a calling together, but the husband bears the primary responsibility for fulfilling that mission while the wife bears the primary responsibility for supporting her husband's work toward the family’s calling.

That is what it means, for example, that the husband is the spiritual head or leader of the family. A husband will answer to God for the spiritual health of his family in a way that the wife will not because it is the man's primary responsibility. His calling, above all, is to lead his family to know and serve God. Other parts of his mission may involve outreach beyond his family such as missions work, serving in the church, witnessing to coworkers, etc., but his primary responsibility before God is to lead his own family and ensure their spiritual health. A wife's primary responsibility in this area is to support her husband's leadership to ensure that chaos does not derail their family's spiritual journey and that her husband has the time and energy to devote to spiritual leadership because he isn't distracted by other minor concerns.

The story comes to mind of Acts 6 and the choosing of deacons to take care of details like feeding the needy so that the apostles could concentrate on preaching and teaching. This kind of hierarchy is found throughout life, not just in marriage. It’s not about inferiority, it’s about efficiency in fulfilling a purpose. It was the deacons' role to handle logistics so that the apostles could spend their time pursuing the main mission of preaching the word and saving souls. In the same way, it is a wife's role to handle logistics of the home so that her husband can concentrate his energy on pursuing the family's main mission for God.

The other thing to consider is that the responsibility for providing for the family is given primarily to the man. It simply isn’t the wife’s responsibility in the same way it is for the husband. Not only are men given the responsibility of spiritual leadership, but they also must provide for their family’s economic needs. In both cases, men will answer to God for how they do so. Providing is a heavy burden given to a man. It requires much time and effort. It is a great support to the husband when the wife takes care of the logistical details of the household so that the husband can devote his efforts to providing and the spiritual training of the children and then, if energy is left, to outside endeavors to further the Kingdom of God.

Now, can a woman handle the logistics of the home, ensure her family is cared for, and still work outside the home? Perhaps, in some cases – especially if they do not yet have children. But no woman is Superwoman. We all have limitations. It's just not possible for any woman to adequately care for children and home while holding down a full time job. The care of children and the home is primarily a woman's responsibility in a way it isn't for her husband. If there are no children, it may be possible for her to care for the home and her husband and still keep a job outside the home, but she must keep the home and her husband as her priority.

Once children arrive, it becomes pretty much impossible for her to work outside the home and still fulfill her duties at home. The funny thing about children is that they need constant care. One cannot care for children and work outside the home too. The choice once children come along is whether to outsource the care of the children to someone else or to do it yourself. I firmly believe that God entrusts children to a husband and wife because he wants them to be the primary influences in their children's lives. That doesn’t happen if the children spend a majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else.

Children don’t just need food and shelter provided to them, they need love, teaching, discipline, a sense of security, and examples of how they are to live. All of those things are best done when the child spends time primarily with his or her parents. Daycare workers, school teachers, and even grandparents simply cannot provide them in the same way parents can. No one loves a child like his own parents do. No one has such a vested interest in ensuring that he grows up with the proper spiritual and moral training. Even if others care about the child, the responsibility for the training of a child belongs to his parents. Daycare workers and teachers and grandparents won’t answer to God for the soul of that child. His parents will.

So, given the needs of children, I am convinced that women are called to be with their children, training and caring for them as their primary caregiver. Does that mean a mother can’t have any job outside the home? In theory, no. In practice, yes. A woman’s priority must be her own family. If she can have her children with her or leave them for only a short time each day, she may still be able to provide the necessary training and care they need from their mother and earn some income. But in doing that, she needs to be sure she is not neglecting her husband’s needs either. Theoretically, a woman can have it all – keeping a job and caring for her family too. The problem is that it is a very rare woman who has the energy to keep up with the constant needs of her children for care, training, discipline, and love and those of her husband for companionship, sex, and a partner in life as well as the logistics of running a household and still have something left for even a part-time job.

What usually happens when a woman has an outside job is that her family simply suffers the lack. Either her children spend a lot of time with other caregivers or teachers or her husband does without the companionship and marital intimacy he needs or some of the household chores descend on the husband, taking away some of his time and energy to train his children spiritually and impact the world for Christ. Often it’s a combination of these. A woman simply cannot meet all the needs of her family when she is spread that thin and, as a result, something important gets left undone.

Of course, there are circumstances where it is necessary for a family’s survival for the wife to work outside the home. That is not the ideal, but it sometimes happens. In that case, the goal should be to do whatever is necessary to make it a temporary situation so that the wife can return to the home and children and be available to meet her husband’s need as well. If that means downgrading the house, foregoing vacations, having the husband take a second job or a better paying job, having the wife work from home, or whatever, the goal should be to work towards having the wife available to fulfill her responsibilities at home. It is vital to the health of her family – both physically and spiritually. There is no replacement for a wife and mother. The family will never be as effective for the Kingdom of God as it could be if the wife is not at home, taking care of her family.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Art of Writing Love Notes


Icon by http://dryicons.com
One of the little things a wife can do to build up her husband is to tell him how much she appreciates him. Words of Affirmation is one of the 5 love languages. Whether or not this particular love language is the primary one through which a person communicates, everyone needs to hear that they are loved and respected. This is especially true in a marriage.

Knowing that I love and respect him is very important to my husband. When we were dating, Doug and I lived about an hour and half apart so much of our communication occurred on the phone and by email. Being able to communicate what we were thinking and feeling in writing was important to the development of our relationship. We got pretty good at having discussions and sending love letters to each other by email during the week. Now that we’re married, we don’t send emails as often since we talk every day, but we do make it a point to tell each other what we appreciate about each other on a regular basis. This has become a habit that we purposely cultivated in order to help keep us close. We also take time every once in a while to write out how we feel about each other, to formalize our love and respect for each other. In some cases, it’s an email. In some cases, it’s a homemade card or a little note in my husband’s lunch. But it is always designed to remind the other person how much they are loved and appreciated.

The art of writing love notes isn’t at all hard to cultivate. It just takes a little effort and creativity. Here are some tips on making love notes memorable. I have written them from a wife’s perspective, but the ideas can be used just as easily by husbands to their wives.

Be creative
Creativity in a love note says that you took the time to think about the other person. There’s nothing wrong with a pre-written message on a card, but it isn’t your thoughts or words. A personal note means so much more.

Also, if at all possible, avoid clich├ęs and common phrases. Don't try to make it sound like a greeting card. At the same time, don't worry too much about sounding corny or sappy. Just be yourself. Use your own thoughts and wording to make the note truly a message from your heart.

Say “I love you”
This one should be obvious and can work for even the briefest of notes. It should probably be included in every love note. However, because it is so obvious, it can sometimes sound stale when used alone. There are lots of variations that can make it stand out:

I love you, my darling husband.
I love my handsome man.
I love you for always.
My love for you will never die.
I love you more every day.
My heart beats with love only for you.
Don’t ever forget how much I love you.

These types of variations are much more descriptive and emotional and can help set the mood for the note.

Point out specific things that you appreciate
This one is a must, both in written notes and in everyday conversation. Taking the time to appreciate good points about your husband can mean the world to him. These statements usually begin as “I like it when…” or “I appreciate your…”

I love the way you play with our children.
I like your smile and the way it lights up your eyes.
I appreciate you taking out the trash so that I don’t have to.
I like it when you put your arms around me.
Your hard work in providing for our family is greatly appreciated.
I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to work out problems.
I love it when you are protective of me.
I like the way you take time to listen to me.
I love the way you make me feel when you tell me I’m beautiful.

Use terms of endearment
Using pet names or other terms of endearment can make a love note personal and special. If your husband doesn’t like the mushy ones that sound like baby talk, try some of these: 

Hero (every man wants to be a hero to his wife)
Darling
My man
Hunk
Prince Charming
Stud
My protector

Men tend to like terms of endearment that make them sound masculine.

Use lots of descriptive words
Descriptive words make a ho-hum note into a special one. Use a variety of different words to describe the way you feel about him, his characteristics that you appreciate, etc. Use words like these frequently: 

Thoughtful
Hard-working
Handsome
Supportive
Intelligent
Wonderful
Kind
Loving
Strong
Protective
Loyal 

Compliment your husband with words that describe his good characteristics. Let him know you’re his biggest fan. This helps build him up and also helps to focus your attention on his strengths as well, making it easier for you to appreciate him.

Flirt a little
A little flirtation is an important addition to any love note between husbands and wives. Tell him how much you like him to pursue you. Add a little spice with some innuendo or hints. Your husband needs to know that you value the physical side of your relationship with him. You aren’t just friends, you’re lovers as well. It doesn’t have to be graphic (especially if you can’t be sure he’ll be the only one to see it), but telling him you like his touch on your skin or can’t get enough of his kisses lets him know that you appreciate him as your mate. 

These tips are things that I’ve found useful in writing love notes to my husband. It doesn’t take a lot of time to write a short note that lets your husband know how you feel about him and it can help keep your marriage strong. If you’ve never done it, try it.

 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Should You Only Have Sex When You Feel Like It?

My last post actually started as a comment on the Matt Walsh Blog which generated over 1,300 likes and dozens of comments in the first 24 hours. So I figured more people would want to read it and posted it on my blog. Apparently, my comment is the sort of thing that people either love or hate passionately because there were also many comments that ardently disagreed. One of the chief criticisms (besides the oft-repeated declaration that I "don't know anything about feminism") had to do with this statement:

"Feminism told them that it's degrading to be a stay-at-home mom or to submit to a husband or to want a lot of children. They should never have sex with their husbands unless they feel like it. They should never let a man make decisions for their family."

Specifically, a lot of people had a problem with the second sentence in that quote. They objected to the idea that a woman should ever have sex with her husband when she doesn't feel like it.

But I absolutely stand by that statement. I think it's perfectly normal and right for a woman to have sex with her husband even when she doesn't feel like it. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that a woman ought to have sex with her husband even when she doesn't feel like it - at least sometimes.

That sounds like a radical idea, I know. Our society has become so feminized that this idea is actually considered crazy or weird or somehow the same as saying women should be raped. It's not.

You see, there are lots of things we do that we don't feel like doing. I don't always feel like getting up in the morning, making breakfast, feeding my kids, cleaning the house, changing diapers, going to the store, or a million other things I do. But I do them because they need to be done and because I love my family. My feelings don't rule me. I make decisions based on love for my family and what needs to be done to care for their needs.

It should be the same in for caring for my husband's needs, including his need for sex.

Of course, the usual response at this point is to ask whether I consider sex some painful, unpleasant duty. I get people saying my sex life must be horrible. On the contrary.

You see, it is a modern and erroneous notion that "duty" is a bad word and the opposite of "pleasant." But that is a false dichotomy. There is no inherent reason that duties cannot be pleasant. Nor does doing something out of duty mean that one cannot enjoy it. Of course, not all duties are fun, but they don't have to be unpleasant simply because we have a duty to do them.

For example, I may not feel, at the moment, like taking my girls outside to play. It's hot. I'm tired. I have dishes to do. But they want to play outside and the fresh air and sunshine will do them good. So I go because I love them and have a duty to care for their needs. One of their needs is play time and time with mommy. But once we're outside, we have a great time and I'm glad I did it. Duty, in this case, was not preventing me from having fun. In fact, duty helped me overcome laziness, lower priority tasks, and distractions that would have prevented me from having fun with my girls.

There are many other things which work similarly. I have a duty to read and study the Bible, and I enjoy it. I have a duty to feed my family, and I also enjoy it. I have a duty to vote and participate in my government, and I don't find that duty horrid or burdensome. I have a duty to be a witness to those around me, and I find that duty agreeable.  I have a duty to clean my house...ok, maybe I don't necessarily enjoy that one, but it isn't some horrible thing I do just because I have to either. I do it because I love my family. And having a clean home is certainly enjoyable.

In the same way, I have a duty to have sex with my husband, and I also enjoy it greatly. There is no contradiction there.

Another thing to consider is the design of female sexuality. Women are less likely than men to be aroused out of the blue. We women often need touch, closeness, and the right mindset to get us in the mood for sex. If a wife is waiting for the mood to strike her before she says yes, it may be a long time and it will take a toll on their marital intimacy. Thus, women who go ahead and engage (not just laying there, but actively participating), even if they weren't initially in the mood, will often find that they warm up as they go along and end up enjoying it. And the emotional intimacy that comes from physical intimacy will strengthen the marriage and bring husband and wife closer together.

So, if duties aren't necessarily unpleasant or a hardship and women can often enjoy sex if they will choose to engage, then pointing out the duty to have sex within marriage doesn't mean that sex becomes unpleasant or forced. Sure, it could be that way if you let it. But it doesn't have to be. If you have the right mindset, recognizing the duty to have sex can help you overcome laziness, lower priorities, and distractions that would prevent you from having the vibrant, intimate, and fun sex life that God intended you to have in your marriage.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Real Reason "50 Shades of Grey" is so Popular

I think women gravitate to 50 Shades of Grey (and other similar erotica) because they haven't embraced the proper roles in sex and marriage. Feminism has taught them that they can never, ever, in any fashion submit to a man...unless it's during sex, if that sort of thing is their cup of tea. Anything goes in the bedroom. Feminism told them that it's degrading to be a stay-at-home mom or to submit to a husband or to want a lot of children. They should never have sex with their husbands unless they feel like it. They should never let a man make decisions for their family. But having a stranger use and abuse you sexually? Well, that's empowering, don't ya know.

The other factor at play is that women are most attracted to men when men are most masculine. It's masculine and attractive to women for men to be in charge, confident, powerful, and robust. But feminism taught men to suppress these characteristics and taught women that any man who shows them is chauvinistic and oppressive. Thus men have learned to become passive and women have learned to hate and fear masculine men. 

In much of life, the feminization of men may seem to turn out fine for both sexes. We live in a culture where we don't often need a man to fight invaders and women can do most jobs. If the gender roles are rather blurred or even reversed, we can still survive. But in the bedroom, women have a hard time being turned on by a wuss. During sex, the natural differences of men and women are more noticeable and important. When that difference isn't emphasized, it makes arousal more difficult. Women are turned on by a man's more masculine traits. Opposites attract.  

When women find their sex life hum-drum because they either have a feminized man or have effectively emasculated him by forcing him to bow to their demands in order to get sex, they often get excited at the thought of being dominated. Erotica, like 50 Shades, appeals to their innate desire to feel a man's power and leadership, to be led and give up control. They may or may not realize it, but I think this is, for many women, the issue. They play a game of make-believe in their minds because feminism has told them it's taboo in real life. 

Of course, the male dominance in 50 Shades of Grey is a twisted and warped version that is debased and harmful. But in a culture of women yearning inside to find some semblance of real masculinity to submit to, it still appeals to them deep down. They don't have the real thing, so they fall for twisted counterfeits that have small glimmers of the masculinity they desire. They're like hungry people eating out of garbage cans, not realizing that they've ignored the gourmet restaurant down the street.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Conversation with a Skeptic on the Existence of Jesus

Here is an actual conversation that took place a week or so ago between me and a skeptic (Andy) on an online forum about the existence of Jesus Christ. This was very constructive as debates go. They aren’t often this focused and usually contain many more insults from the skeptics.

I post this, not because I’m a world class debater (I’m not), but because the conversation is instructive in several ways. First, it shows the kinds of arguments skeptics out there are using and some ways to combat those arguments. Notice that I provide evidence and refer to evidence that he can verify elsewhere if he takes a little effort to do so.

Also notice that I do not always do all the looking for him. If he is interested, I have provided enough evidence to start him in the right direction. If he is only interested in ridiculing Christians, I have better uses of my time. Thus, I am under no obligation to ferret out every possible evidence for my position until he shows some signs of being a true seeker. My responsibility is to defend my position and provide a start for his own personal search, should he wish to undertake it.

The topic of the conversation itself is also instructive. There actually are still people out there claiming that the Jesus of the Bible never existed or that there is no evidence of him. My responses here include just a tiny intro to some of the evidences to contrary.

Another thing to notice here is how often Andy makes broad, sweeping claims with no evidence or refuses to look into sources I provide. This is typical. People like this like the idea of being atheists or agnostics and they like looking down their noses at Christians and pretending that we are the ones who are ignorant and backwards, yet they won’t even read an article or semi-lengthy comment on the evidence for our side, much less a book or scholarly publication. This conversation makes that clear.

Anyway, here’s the conversation, slightly cleaned up for clarity, but given in its entirety. The background is that Andy was having a conversation about the existence of God with someone else named Jan when I jumped in.


Andy: How real do you have to believe your imaginary friend is to consider it a relationship?

Jan: Andy, how real do you believe the air is that you breathe? You can't see it, but you know it is there.

Andy: When I put my head under water and breathe out, yes I can see it.

Me: And if you get to heaven, you'll be able to see God.

Andy: If I get to Valhalla I'll get to see Odin, which has as much likelihood.

Me: Except that Christianity has far more evidence for its truth than Norse mythology.

Andy: You're only saying that because Christianity is the dominant religion is your part of the world. You'd be saying something completely different if you lived in ancient Egypt, medieval Constantinople or modern day India.

Andy: I must point out that there is no evidence for Jesus' existence, and even if there were any to be found it still wouldn't verify any of his miracles or magic powers.

Me: I'm not talking about what religion I prefer to be true. I'm talking about which religion has objective evidence for its truth claims. Only Christianity has that.

Just for starters, do some research on:

The Cosmological Argument
The Teleological Argument
The Moral Argument
The Minimal Facts Case for the Resurrection of Jesus
The number of fulfilled OT prophecies

The first 3 are logical arguments for the existence of God and could apply to any personal monotheistic God. The last 2 are specific to Christianity.

As for the claim that there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus, that is patently false.

"Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and most biblical scholars and classical historians see the theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.[5][7][8][28][29][30] In antiquity, the existence of Jesus was never denied by those who opposed Christianity.[31][32] There is, however, widespread disagreement among scholars on the details of the life of Jesus mentioned in the gospel narratives, and on the meaning of his teachings.[12] Robert E. Van Voorst states that the idea of the non-historicity of the existence of Jesus has always been controversial, and has consistently failed to convince virtually all scholars of many disciplines.[28] Geoffrey Blainey notes that a few scholars have argued that Jesus did not exist, but writes that Jesus' life was in fact "astonishingly documented" by the standards of the time – more so than any of his contemporaries – with numerous books, stories and memoirs written about him."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus

Andy: Your copy and pasting skills are astounding. I'm not going to read something you've lazily C&P here, I want to hear these so-called objective evidences in your own words.

Me: Um, copying and pasting from a source, with a link, is called supporting your argument. You should try it sometime.

Me: The rest was my words and the information on those arguments is out there, easy to find if you look. If you want to know what evidence there is for Christianity, you'll have to do a little work. I have no incentive to provide information that you can just as easily find for yourself.

Andy: Firstly, if we're going to agree on the existence of Jesus' existence, we must first agree on a few standards Jesus must meet. What do qualifications should Jesus have?

Me: Read the link I provided. It's not a Christian source and it gives the basic facts that the majority of historians and scholars agree on. If you can't read a single Wikipedia article, I have nothing more to say. My explanation would be much longer and I don't plan to write it if you can't read that much.

Andy: I can accept there was a man running around Palestine 2000 years ago who claimed to be the messiah because there were literally hundreds doing that very same thing. So if you that's the only prerequisite that Jesus had to do, then yes, Jesus did exist.

Me: You still didn't read the link.

Andy: No, because we haven't decided on what standards Jesus would have to meet in order to determine if he did exist.

When you say Jesus, what do you mean?

Me: The accepted facts about Jesus include his baptism by John the Baptist, his crucifixion near Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate, that he had disciples, he was from Galilee, and that after his death his disciples were persecuted and killed. That sounds like the same person described in the Bible.

Andy: Then no, there is absolutely no evidence for that Jesus.

Me: Lots of historians disagree with you. Not just Christian historians, but atheists and agnostics as well.

Me: The historians Josephus and Tacitus, writing during the period, confirmed several details of Jesus' life, including his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.

Andy: No, historians say that at the most they can say is that it's likely that a man called Jesus who claimed to be the messiah existed around Palestine 2000 years ago. They say nothing about his teachings, miracles or divinity.

You're wrong about the crucifixion; it's only been proven that Pilate existed and he probably had people executed.

Me: From Tacitus, a Roman historian, circa AD 117:

"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular."

Tacitus, The Annals, Book 15, Section 44


Andy: I didn't read the word 'crucifixion' at all; it doesn't even say he was executed.

Me: "the extreme penalty" could only be death. The extreme penalty among Romans was crucifixion.

Andy: Even if I grant you this as evidence, this has proven nothing about his miracles, divinity or resurrection.

Me: We weren't talking about those. We were talking about whether or not the Jesus of the Bible was an actual historical person.

Andy: You said:

"The accepted facts about Jesus include his baptism by John the Baptist, his crucifixion near Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate, that he had disciples, he was from Galilee, and that after his death his disciples were persecuted and killed. That sounds like the same person described in the Bible."

You have to provide evidence for all those points. Just having one source saying there was a chap called Jesus proves very little. You haven't shown evidence for John the Baptist, his hometown or that he was even executed.

Me: All of those facts are listed in the Wikipedia article I linked to as being accepted by most historians. There are references there. I don't have time to dig out everything I ever saw about the evidence for these things. Do a little research on your own. I provided one source for you, but I'm not going to write a book for you right now. It's already been done.

Andy: OK, for argument's sake, let's say you're right about those statements, so what? It doesn't mean anything.

Me: If you're interested, you can check out this blog post, which has a good summary of the evidence for the resurrection and links to more information:

http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/what-criteria-do-historians-use-to-get-to-the-minimal-facts-about-the-historical-jesus-2/

Me: Of course it means something. If I'm right, and there is evidence for a Jesus who was crucified by the Romans, baptized by John the Baptist, etc then that means the Biblical accounts of these things match known facts. That means the Biblical accounts have proven accurate and trustworthy on those points.

If the Biblical accounts (multiple accounts, written by different people at different times in different places) are accurate on these points, perhaps they are accurate in other places. A source that has been shown to be accurate in some places warrants further consideration as a primary source of information. Thus, the Biblical accounts form a historical record that provides information about the life of Jesus.

Andy: All things being equal, IF Jesus did exist and a two claims were made, firstly that Jesus' followers took the body, and secondly, Jesus rose from the dead, the most likely explanation is that the first claim is true. If the second were true is raises more questions than it answers. Why was it only known to a small number of people up until Constantine and how did he rise from the dead?

Me: In any historical document, there is always the risk that the writers made up what they were writing rather than recording what actually happened. That is true for any historical event or document out there, religious or not. However, there are several clues that historians look for in order to determine if the writers were likely to be telling the truth or not. They look for things like multiple attestation (i.e. multiple sources verifying one another), early records (i.e. written near the time they record), matching with known facts of the time period, dissimilarities between sources (i.e. different sources verifying a fact have differences to show that the accounts are independent, and not copies of one another), embarrassment of the writers (people tend not to make up things that are embarrassing to themselves and thus embarrassing details are good evidence that an account was recorded accurately), and linguistically accurate to the time period and area they are supposed to come from. All of these apply to the accounts found in the Bible and form good evidence that the writers of the NT documents were recording history accurately.

Andy: Yes, so what's more likely? These extraordinary events actually happened or the writers made them up?

Andy: If I said there was historical evidence for King Arthur, AND that he drew a sword from a stone and received Excalibur from the Lady in the Lake but I only provided evidence that he actually existed, would you accept the other two claims?

Me: The claim that Jesus' followers took the body seems not to fit as well with the facts. Why would they die for a story they made up? We know that Christians were persecuted and killed for their insistence on the resurrection of Jesus. Why face all that instead of admitting you lied?

Also, if the body had been stolen, in spite of the Roman guards, why weren't those guards put to death? It's not like the Romans had a big tolerance for negligence in the line of duty.

Also, the accounts of the resurrection contain details that would have been embarrassing for the writers and early Christians. For one thing, the empty tomb was discovered by women. In those days, women were not considered reliable witnesses and were not allowed to testify in a court of law. If people of that time were making up a story, they would have made it men that discovered the tomb - probably Peter or John. Similarly, they claim to have seen Jesus after the resurrection, but Thomas didn't believe it at first. Again, that's an embarrassing detail. Plus, the idea of a bodily resurrection was foreign to Jewish belief.

Andy: Your argument falls apart at the instant you claim that Jesus' body actually disappeared. You've presented no evidence for it.

Me: It seems to me that if Jesus' body didn't disappear it would have been easy to debunk the early Christians' claims of resurrection. All they would have to do is take people to the tomb and point to the body. The story that the disciples took the body would never have been invented if the body was still there. Historians generally agree that the body was missing for these reasons.

Andy: Where can we find the claims that any of this actually happened outside of the Bible?

Me: As far as I know, the claims of resurrection are found only in Christian writings, including several early documents known as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, these are historical documents with good evidence of their historical accuracy elsewhere, and which are written near the time of the events they claim to record, which agree on the important details and yet are independent sources and not copies of one another, and which contain details that would be embarrassing to the writers and early Christians, and for which claims the early disciples refused to recant, even on penalty of death. I didn't say there was proof positive, but there is definitely some evidence here, and far more than you'll ever find for any other religion.

Andy: I'm glad we've established that your claims are baseless.

Me: That's not what I said and not true. They might be false (though, obviously, I don't think so), but they aren't baseless.

Andy: There is nothing outside of the bible that mentions Jesus' resurrection, let alone verifies it.

Me: So why don't you consider the testimony of the accounts in the Bible? They are historical records, just like Josephus or Tacitus.

Andy: The same reason you don't accept accounts of alien abductions (hopefully poi don't anyway). I have no good reason to accept anything without decent evidence.

The bible is not a historical text because the amount of verifiable things in are of such a small percentage that it's virtually worthless, and certainly not reliable enough to be a commentary on any real events.

Me: Actually, the amount of information in the Bible that has been verified historically is great. Obviously, not everything in the Bible is verifiable. But where it can be verified, it matches well with what we already know about history.

Unlike Norse mythology or Mormonism, the events of the Bible take place in a real historical setting, with real people that are known to exist in history, with historically accurate details that match the time period. Unlike tales of alien abduction, there was no incentive for the early Christians to make up such stories, and in fact every reason not to considering that they were being killed in some of the most brutal ways for their claims.

And the separate accounts from the different gospels agree with each other in the important details while still incorporating different aspects, which shows that they are independent accounts and not copies of each other or written by conspirators. These writers show every indication of doing their best to recount an accurate account of their experiences, even including embarrassing details that might have made them look bad. It doesn't look like a made-up story. It looks like the people who were there really believed it.

Andy: Would you mind relaying a few?

Me: You want me to relay a few details of historically verified information in the Bible? Sure. There's lots and lots and lots. I couldn't possibly list it all, but I can give some idea of the scope.

Just talking about the life of Jesus, there are details about the geography and names of Roman officials that are well-known. Pontius Pilate, for example. And he was only short-term governor (AD 26-36), so that gives historical setting. Other historical figures mentioned in the NT include Herod the Great, Herod Antipas and wife Herodias (who had formerly been married to his brother, Philip), Governors Felix and Festus, "King" Agrippa, and others. The existence of places like Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, etc are confirmed. The Bible isn't written as a fable with "once upon a time, long, long ago." It happens in a real, historical place and time.

Crucifixion is described accurately and matches what we know from elsewhere about this Roman punishment. We also see other similar cultural details such as the practice of stoning, the common use of wine as a beverage at that time, many Jewish sayings and practices, the special status and rights reserved for Roman citizens, and lots of other details of the period.

In other areas of the Bible the same sort of thing applies. We know of Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Moabites, and many other people groups from the Bible and from other sources. The history of the Israelites given in the OT also matches several things known from outside sources (such as King Omri of Israel fighting against Moab, King Hezekiah of Israel being besieged by Sennacherib of Assyria, but then Sennacherib leaving without sacking the city, etc). There is every reason to believe that the Bible as a whole is an accurate historical record of events of the time, even if you disbelieve the religious claims.

Andy: So it names some historical locations; Spider-man mentions New York, is Spider-Man real?

As for the crucifixion, an execution like that often lasted for days, not just three hours.

Me: There is much more to the Bible than simply mentioning real place names. That is simply one type of historical detail that has been verified. Also, people didn't have the time, inclination, or resources to simply write fiction back then, as we do today. Parchment or papyrus were expensive and difficult to obtain, few could write, times were tough and everyone had to work hard to survive, and these precious resources of scribes and writing materials were generally reserved for important documents, not wasted on fanciful things. Not that all documents were historically accurate back then, but the fanciful ones were usually obvious in their flight from reality, not carefully crafted hoaxes with a little make-believe inserted in a grim, historical setting.

As for the crucifixion, the Bible agrees that crucifixions usually took a long time. That is why it records the surprise of the soldiers at finding Jesus dead so soon, the spear being stabbed into Jesus' side to check this, and the legs of the remaining criminals on crosses being broken to hurry their deaths.

Andy: That's one of my problems with the bible, it gets so many things wrong. Too many things wrong for it to be the work of an all-knowing being.

Me: What sorts of things wrong? Can you give any examples? You can't just claim the Bible gets stuff wrong. You have to at least provide some examples. While there are many apparent contradictions, all of them can be resolved with a little study so that there are no actual contradictions in the Bible. Or at least I have yet to find one. So if you have real examples of things that are false in the Bible, I would like to hear them.

Andy: OK, Sodom and Gomorrah never existed. There is no evidence that points to a large amount of people just leaving Egypt. In Exodus it states that the Egyptian army was drowned in the Red Sea; not a single artefact has ever been found to back this up. There is no evidence to suggest a large number of people invaded Canaan, result in the eradication of most of the indigenous population. In fact, evidence points to quite the contrary. Evidence shows that Judaism started in ancient Palestine. They borrowed beliefs and developed into another monotheism in the area.

Me: Since it is impossible to prove the non-existence of anything, you can't possibly have evidence that Sodom and Gomorrah never existed. At most you can claim that they have never been found. But to fail to find two cities that old is not exactly surprising, especially considering the Bible's claim that they were completely destroyed. So while you could claim it was made up, you haven't proven that. You have merely said that there is no evidence for the Bible's account. There are lots of points where the Bible hasn't been or can't be verified. But where it can be, it often has been.

As for the rest of the things you mentioned, you should probably learn a principle called "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." These things may not have been verified completely, but there is no evidence that the Biblical account is false.

While these events may not have been confirmed entirely, there is work being done to reconcile the Biblical accounts with other known chronologies such as that of Egypt.

Here's an article about an Egyptian papyrus that seems to indicate plagues that are very similar to those in Exodus: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-isaacs/passover-in-egypt-did-the_b_846337.html

Me: As for the Canaanites, it is clear in the Bible that the Canaanite populations were not wiped out since it speaks of various Canaanite cities that existed intact long after the Israelites invaded. Some cities were wiped out and perhaps some whole tribes, but not all Canaanites in the region.

Andy: Do you have any idea how asinine that statement was? You're pretty much saying that because there is no evidence then it must be true.

That's why I don't believe in God(s); I see no evidence for one/any. If you used the argument that if the lack of evidence is evidence in itself, you'd rightly be laughed at.

Me: No, I didn't say the lack of evidence makes it true. I said that you haven't proved the Bible is false. That's a completely different thing.

Me: The Bible itself is a set of historical documents that are better preserved and better attested than any other comparable ancient text. That alone is pretty noteworthy. And it has been verified in many instances, though evidence is still lacking for many of its claims (which is what one would expect since having independent confirmation of every claim in an ancient text would be beyond belief considering how little we can verify from that era).

Andy: If there's no current evidence for it, then we must assume the position that until it is proven, it probably doesn't exist. It's called skepticism and critical thinking.

I'd be willing to change my mind if compelling evidence were put forward, but until then I have to say that Exodus and the like, never happened.

If we're talking about the Biblical Jesus, I'd expect to see as strong evidence for his existence as we have for Julius Caesar.

Me: You expect to have the same amount of evidence for a homeless Jew in a backwater country with no political power as you do for the Emperor of the known world at the time? That's asking a little much.

Andy: That's a fair point, but I think Jesus' ability to raise people from the dead, walk on water, cure diseases, conjure up food from nowhere and even come back from the dead puts him back in the game for requiring evidence.

Me: How about fulfilling dozens of prophecies in ways that no one ought to be able to fulfill them? Like where he was born and how he died.

Me: As for the miracles, it is rather difficult to prove a miracle unless you happen to see it with your own eyes. If someone, even today, were to feed 5 thousand people from a small lunch, how could you prove it after the fact? You could only rely on eye witnesses. Which is what we do when we believe the Bible.

Me: Of course, one should ensure that such eyewitnesses are trustworthy as much as possible, but when you have multiple eyewitnesses saying the same things, some of which are embarrassing to them, but with enough different details to show they didn't collude in their stories, it's worth looking into further.

Andy: That's true. I'd need to see something that verifies the event. Nothing pops up anywhere regarding Jesus' miracles outside of the bible.

Not one single Roman scholar thought "Hmmm, I heard there's this chap in Judea raising people from the dead. Perhaps I should write this down."

Regarding the prophecies, that's pretty easy to discount when you realise the writers of the bible could just write whatever they like.

Me: The deal with the prophecies is that we have evidence that the prophecies were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Take a look at Psalm 22, for example. It looks, at first glance, like the writer (King David) is talking about his own troubles, but then you realize that he is giving a very accurate description of crucifixion (though in poetic form), which was unknown at that time. Jesus quoted the first lines of this psalm on the cross to indicate that he was fulfilling it right then. The parallels are astounding. Specifically, verses 12-18 are very interesting:

"Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture."

A crowd around him, staring and gloating. Bones out of joint (hanging on a cross, suspended by his arms). Thirsty (Jesus said he was thirsty on the cross). Pierced hands and feet (what other torture or method death produces that, and how could someone ensure they experienced that in order to try to fulfill the prophecy). No bones broken (Jesus died before they could break his legs as they did with the others on the crosses next to him). Casting lots for his clothing. How could one man make his own death match all those details? And how could the writer of the Psalm know anything about crucifixion - with its pierced hands and feet, bones out of joint, thirst from exposure, and people standing around watching - hundreds of years before the practice was invented?

Other prophets of the OT also foretold the death of Jesus. Isaiah 53:2-12 is very compelling.

"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

This was known to be a prophecy of the Messiah long before Jesus was born. Notice the parallels to Jesus. It talks of the Messiah being wounded and having stripes (whip marks). Led like a sheep to the slaughter, but did not open his mouth (Jesus was silent before his accusers and did not respond to their charges). He had no children. Died with criminals, but was buried by a rich man.

Micah 5:2 is another prophecy fulfilled: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

These are just a few examples. There are others as well. It would be quite a feat for one man to make his life conform to these prophecies from hundreds of years before.

Andy: Too long. Didn’t read.

Me: As for the miracles, there weren't too many historians in Palestine at that time. They tended to regard the great deeds of Rome as more interesting to record. But the historian Josephus did speak of Jesus in his Book 18.

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross,[9] those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day;[10] as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Antiquities_of_the_Jews/Book_XVIII#Chapter_3

Me: Too long, huh? I guess you don't really care to know the evidence. You'd rather spout borrowed cliches about "no evidence" than actually educate yourself about the topic.

Andy: Look, you're banging on about Josephus and after a little research, it turns out that he wasn't even that reliable. He was born after Jesus had allegedly lived, so he never even saw the guy. He wrote down accounts, third hand might I add, from people who could just make up any old shit about Jesus.

Me: Welcome to studying history. That's quite normal. It's tough to try to find any decent historical records from that long ago, especially in some areas. Modern historians have to invest a lot of work in sifting through old documents trying to piece together the past from the writings of people who may or may not have actually seen what they are describing and who may or may not have an interest in modifying the accounts for their own purposes.

That's why the Bible is such an exceptional group of historical records. It is better than the vast majority of sources out there because it was written primarily by eyewitnesses, contains multiple sources that agree with one another, and has good evidence that it hasn't been altered over the years because we have multiple copies from different time periods that all say nearly exactly the same thing, some of which date to within 200 years of the original writing. There are few, if any, historical documents of that era which can even come close to comparing.

Andy: I'm at a loss as to why to insist on claim the bible is a historically reliable document. If it is a historical document then the universe is only 6000 years old, which, as we all know, is wrong.

Me: Look, if you're waiting on a picture and an article about Jesus in the Jerusalem Times, you're going to be out of luck. They just didn't record things that way back then. They didn't have the wealth of information we have at our fingertips all the time. The existence of Jesus and his life and death are about as well documented as one could imagine for a poor Jewish man with no political power living in a poor area with no political importance. The fact that we even know anything about him from outside sources is rather amazing.

As for the Bible records themselves, people like you tend to discount them immediately without ever considering them, but they are actually valuable historical records. Perhaps because people place these documents in a single volume and call it "The Bible" people often think of it as just one book. It isn't. It's a collection of 66 books, written by about 40 people over a period of about 1600 years. These books are exceptionally well-preserved and well-documented as to their origin and history. There are literally thousands of documents and document fragments of books in the NT from the 3rd and 4th century AD through about the 14th century, in the original languages or from early translations. And, amazingly, while there are many minor variations of a word or sentence between these documents, it is quite possible for scholars to reconstruct the original words of the entirety of the NT to a high degree of certainty. That is unheard of.

As for the text itself, it has a very high degree of agreement within the text, contains things the people of that time would have found embarrassing to themselves and are not likely to have made up, and which they themselves had every reason not to spread considering that they were persecuted and killed for it. Why would they do this? Maybe they were all part of a big conspiracy and they were willing to die so that they could trick millions of people like me who believe their accounts into believing some made up story about a poor man in Palestine who did miracles and was crucified by the Romans, but who rose again because he was God. Maybe they were far-sighted enough to think up an idea that would live on for thousands of years beyond them and that people of all backgrounds throughout history would come to believe. Maybe it's all a big scam and I'm a sucker to believe it. Or maybe, just maybe, they died for this story and spent their lives travelling the world to tell others about it and refused to be quieted because it was true.

To get back to my original point, I never claimed to have absolute proof for Christianity. There is no absolute proof. But to say there is "no evidence" is false. There may not be enough evidence to satisfy you. Fair enough. That's your choice. But at least be honest enough not to claim there is no evidence or that Norse myths are equally supported by evidence. That is just false.