Christian Apologetics - Lesson 22

Two Central Miracles

Two miracles central to Christianity are the incarnation and resurrection.

Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Lesson 22
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Two Central Miracles


Part 3

III.  Two Central Miracles of Christianity

A.  The Incarnation - The Deity of Christ

1.  C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

2.  Two radically different views of Jesus

a.  The Naturalistic View

b.  The Supernatural View

3.  Jesus was just a good man?

4.  Lunatic, Liar, or Lord

5.  Eyewitness accounts

6.  Degrees of mistakes

7.  Disjunctive syllogism

B.  The Resurrection

1.  Three alternatives

a.  Jesus didn't die.

b.  Someone stole the body.

c.  Appearances were hallucinations.

2.  Responses

  • Introduction to Apologetics.

  • Apologetics involves finding evidence and presenting arguments to defend the Christian faith.

  • Two prominent worldviews are Christian theism and naturalism.

  • The law of non-contradiction states that A cannot be B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense.

  • Explanations and responses to different worldviews.

  • If God is good and all powerful, then why does evil exist?

  • Discussion about how the existence of evil is consistent with God's character.

  • Your noetic structure, presuppositions and view of epistemology are important elements in the formation of your worldview.

  • Discussion of deductive presuppositionalism vs. inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Objections to inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Arguments for and against evidentialism.

  • Arguments for and against foundationalism.

  • Discussion of natural theology.

  • There are valid, sound and cogent arguments for the existence of God, but no coercive proofs.

  • Discussion of different arguments for God's existence.

  • One version of the cosmological argument for God's existence emphasizes God as first in time, another emphasizes God as first in importance.

  • A possible world is a way the real world could have been. Modal logic, propositions, state of affairs and eternal entities are some of the considerations when discussing a possible world.

  • Something is logically possible if its description does not include a logical contradiction. The existence of the laws of knowledge refute the system of naturalism.

  • Middle knowledge is a form of knowledge attributed to God by Molina.

  • Miracles are a dividing line and central to Christianity.

  • David Hume's rational arguments against miracles and responses to those arguments.

  • Two miracles central to Christianity are the incarnation and resurrection.

  • The question of whether or not Jesus is the only savior touches on pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism.

  • Pluralism is the view that all religions have salvific value.

  • Inclusivism is the view that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for a person to be saved.

  • Salvation is totally the work of God and all children who die in infancy are elect of God.

  • Discussion from a biblical perspective of God's character and attributes.

  • Open theists believe that God does not have a perfect knowledge of the future.

  • Divine omnipotence and divine omniscience are two attributes of God.

  • When contemplating life after death, remember, Jesus has been there and come back. Will you commit your life to him or reject him?

These lectures were given at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida during the fall of 2001.


Dr. Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Two Central Miracles
Lesson Transcript


[00:00:02] Let's look at the two miracles, the miracle of the incarnation and the miracle of the resurrection. And I know, based on years of doing this, that you're you know, if you're a student here, you've been pretty well grounded in this material. But let me give you one scenario in which you present a case for the deity of Christ, the Incarnation. And you will know if you understand the literature, that much of what I'm doing here is not original with me. I mean, it clearly is derived from stuff that appears in C.S. Lewis as mere Christianity. I used to do this in my history of philosophy course at Western Kentucky University. I was once asked by the Unitarian Association in Bowling Green, Kentucky, if I would come and speak to their group. Now, inviting Ron Nash to speak to a Unitarian Fellowship is a little bit like saying sycamore to a dog. Okay. I said, Well, tell me when and where. Okay. But I said to the guy who invited me. I said, Now you understand that you and I disagree. He said, Oh, yeah. But, you know, we Unitarians are very open minded. And I said, okay, but I'm going to test your open mindedness. Well, here's how I used to do it in in my introduction of philosophy class. And I said, Look, this I've done this many times. I've done it in Russia. You know, it works there. I, I would I would finish the the, the ancient philosophy part of the course. And I'd say, Now kids, before we go any further, we we can do one of two things.


[00:02:17] And I, you know, me kids, I'm open minded. I'm not dogmatic. I, you know, I just want to be helpful here. We can either pretend that nothing happened at the beginning of the Christian era and go on and act as if nothing happened. Or we can take a few minutes and find out where Jesus fits in the history of human ideas. After all, you know, Jesus is a little bit more important than Democritus and Epictetus and so on. Are there any of you who are interested in hearing me as a philosopher talk about Jesus? Never had a dissident voice. They all said, Yeah, go for it. Nash Okay. Okay. I said, Well, I'm not prepared to do this, but I'll I'll give it a stab. Okay. First of all, you got to understand the two are there are two radically different views of Jesus. Two radically different views of Jesus. All of the wrong views of Jesus, if any view is wrong, is a variation of the major. Wrong way that I'm going to discuss, but I'm not going to tell you which view is right or wrong. I'm just going to present two contrasting views of Jesus. We're going to talk. We're going to call the first view of Jesus the naturalistic view of Jesus. Now, you could fill in the blanks here. You could fill in the blanks. The naturalistic view of Jesus is this. There is no God. Miracles are impossible. Even if Jesus lived, He was born. He was conceived in the natural human way. He lived a life as a humble person in Judea. Maybe. Or maybe he didn't get involved in politics. And then for one reason or another, he was put to death by the cruel technique of crucifixion.


[00:04:13] And he died. And that was the end of it. And during his life, he impressed a lot of people that he was important, but he never performed any miracles. He didn't walk on the water. And certainly after he died, he didn't come back to life. That's the naturalistic view of Jesus. And if you run into any atheists on this campus, that's their go. That's going to be their view of Jesus. Okay. Now, what's the other view of Jesus? We could call it the supernatural view of Jesus, but you must. When you think about the word supernatural, you must not think of Stephen King. You mustn't think of all things like witchcraft in that wall here. All the word supernatural means is there is more to reality than the physical universe. There is more to reality than the laws of physics and chemistry and biology. There is a God. And this God created the world. And I'm not going to explain the view of Jesus that fits within this supernatural view of things. And then later on, you yourself can make the choice. As to whether you find the supernatural view of Jesus. More plausible or the naturalistic view of Jesus more. Now, what is the supernatural view of Jesus? It is that Jesus did not begin to exist when he was born in Bethlehem. He existed before his birth in Bethlehem. In fact, he has always existed as the second person of the Trinity. In fact, Jesus Christ was instrumental in creating the world. That's the that's the Christian view of Jesus. So he was born in a supernatural way. He was conceived in a supernatural way. He performed miracles. Whenever he taught. It was the word of God that he was teaching. And yes, he did die, but he didn't die as an accident or as a martyr.


[00:06:15] He died as a sacrifice for your sin. And my sin. And three days after he died, he. He came back from the dead. He was resurrected. That's the supernatural view of Jesus. Now, if any of you are faithful Roman Catholics or faithful Protestants, where the Bible is taught and believe you've been taught the supernatural view of Jesus. Okay. Now. How do we decide between these two views? Here's the approach I'm going to take. I'm going to show you that the naturalistic view of Jesus is nonsense. It doesn't make sense. It is the most irrational approach to Jesus that any of you can take. And here's how I'm going to do that. What is the naturalistic view of Jesus that goes like this? Jesus was just a good man. Period. That's all he was. He was just a human being and he was a human being that those who knew him thought was so phenomenal that he was he was a great a good human. He was right up there with Mother Teresa. He's right up there with Mahatma Gandhi. You know, I'm doing my schtick here, a good human. But here's the problem. Someone who is just a good man could never have said and done the things that Jesus did. For example, Jesus claimed to be God. Let me give you an example. And now I'm going to switch from. Because I'm going to switch to some language that I used in Russia when I gave this message. And you got to understand that a lot of people in Russia, a lot of people in the former Soviet Union, are forced to live in very small flats or apartments, probably no more than 800 square feet in very tall buildings. Very tall buildings. Very small flats.


[00:08:41] Apartments. Okay. Hundreds of families may be crowded into these. So I'm saying suppose one day a carpenter moves into your building. Let's say his name is Jesus. And he starts making little toys for the children because he's very skillful with his hands. Wood making. And as he makes toys for the children, he teaches them, he talks to them, he befriends them, and they come to love him. And let's say that you and your spouse, you begin to notice that since your children have become friendly with this carpenter, they're different. They're better children. They don't fight as much. Your daughter comes home and she says, Mother, can I help you clean the house or can I help you wash the dishes? And your son, he wants to help his daddy. And, you know, and it's just the whole atmosphere of the family is so much better. So let's suppose one night. Over borscht. Okay. Over borscht. Or better Napoleon cake. Oh, man. Is that good? Let's say it's gotten to the Napoleon cake part of the meal. We can skip the borscht, and you look at your spouse and you say, Honey, wouldn't it be wonderful if when our children grow up, they're just like, Jesus. That would be wonderful. And that's when your little girl says, Would you like to know what Jesus told us today? And you say, Yes, dear. Well, he told us today that before Abraham existed, he existed. I didn't hear that. What did you just say? Jesus told us that. Which Abraham are we talking about? We're talking about the Abraham in the Bible. Is that the man who lived about 4000 years ago? Yes. Jesus said he existed. Has Jesus said anything else? He said yes. He created the world.


[00:10:50] The carpenter said He created the what? The world. Did he say anything else? Yeah. He told us last week that at the end of the world, he and his angels were going to come back and judge you and Mommy for your sins. Wow. Now, the point is obvious. If Jesus were just a good man, he wouldn't have said things like this. Not only are there things that he, a good man, would not say, there are things a good man would not do. Jesus allowed people to worship him as God. Moreover, Jesus went around and he forgave people for. The sins that they had committed against other people. See if you sinned against me. I can forgive you. I can say I you know, you hurt me badly, but I forgive you. Well, Jesus did that, of course, But Jesus went around forgiving people for the sins that they committed to other people. Imagine a group like this where we have a really strong, you know, football type guy and a small guy. And let's say the little guy gets mad at the football player and he punches them out and the football players on the ground. And the little the little guy has got his feet on his shoulder and he's beating his chest, you know. And Jesus comes up and puts his arm around the little guy and says, I forgive you for what you did to Bubba down here. And Bubba says, through the through the fog. He says, Wait a minute, maybe I can forgive that guy. And as soon as he steps off my chest, I'm going to I'm going to think about it. But you have no right to forgive him for what he did to me. But Jesus did that all the time.


[00:12:47] He always acted as though whenever one human being sinned against another, they were sinning against his law. Now, human beings don't do that. Now, of course, you know what comes next. We get this tremendous quotation from C.S. Lewis. Let's see if I've included it in the book. I'm sure I have. Let me find it. It would be in chapter 19. Yeah. Page 265. I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus, and that is I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher. But I do not accept his claim to be God. That is, I'm ready to accept the naturalistic view of Jesus, but I cannot accept the supernatural view of Jesus. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God or else he is a mad man or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool. You can spit at him. You can kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. Now, because of time, I've skipped a lot of intervening stuff. A lot of intervening stuff that shows you that there actually are other alternatives here.


[00:14:35] But it's not just. The god or lunatic argument that some atheists reduce it to. It's a much more sophisticated argument than that. But listen, folks. No person in his right mind could accept the naturalistic view of Jesus. A good man wouldn't do that. Therefore, he might be the devil of hell. Therefore, he might be a lunatic. Therefore, he might be an evil person, but he could not just be a good man. Now you want to know what a lot of people decide that this view, the supernatural view of Jesus, isn't so crazy after all. That when you get rid of your naturalistic presuppositions, the only view of Jesus that makes sense in the final analysis. This is reasoning to the best explanation, again, is that he spoke the truth and he really was the son of God. Now back to my western Kentucky class. And it happened every time. Incredible. I began to get questions from the students. So here's question number one. Dr. Nash. You know, Coach. Coach Nash, you're really begging the question here. I mean, what you're assuming is that the Bible's the word of God, that it's an error, then it's a you're one of the. You sound like a fundamentalist, even if you are a philosopher. Now, I said, listen, my argument does not require you at this moment to believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God because you want to know why all of these statements that Jesus made and all of these deeds that Jesus performed were done in public places. Such that when the Bible did come along later, around 60 A.D., in the case of the Synoptic Gospels, there were plenty of eyewitnesses who, if they had been there, could have stood up and said, Wait a minute, I was there when Jesus fed all of those people.


[00:16:52] And he didn't say that he didn't do that. But there were no contrary witnesses, see. The Bible was there in existence, in circulation within the lifetime of people who had been eyewitnesses. So you can't just throw this stuff out as though somebody made it up and published it 200 years after the fact. It was available in the lifetime of people who had been there. Okay, then. There was another objection. Yeah. This usually came from a football player in the back of the room. He said, Well, you know, see, people are trying to find an alternative. They know the naturalistic view of Jesus is nonsense, but they know the price they're going to have to pay if they admit that Jesus Christ is the son of God. And so they're struggling for a way out. So there was always a guy who would say, Well, you know, Dr. Marsh. Instead of saying that Jesus was a madman, a lunatic on the level of someone who thinks he's a poached egg, you know, there are degrees of mistakes. And maybe Jesus was just a little wrong. He wasn't a lunatic. He just made a little mistake. Here's the answer. Well, there are two kinds of mistakes. There are little mistakes and there are big mistakes. Okay. Now let me give you some small example. Little mistakes here. Ron Nash thinks he's the world's greatest piano player. He's wrong. But maybe that mistake is so trivial that we can ignore it. And besides, we've heard you play the piano on Nash, and you ain't the world's greatest, greatest piano player. Okay. Or Nash is the greatest golfer. Or Cleveland's greatest golfer. Now, those are mistakes. Okay. But now consider this proposition. Ron Nash thinks he's got. Whew. That's not a little mistake.


[00:19:08] That's a big mistake. And, you know. Jesus, if he was wrong, made the biggest mistake of all. And when people think they're God, we don't humor them. We call the guys in the white coats in an ambulance and they put straitjackets on these people and they take them away. And we're lucky if we ever see them again. This is not a little mistake, right? This is the biggest mistake a human being can commit to think that he's got. You got them. They have no answer to that. Now, one of the things that I do in the text material that I've skipped over is to introduce my reader to what we call the disjunctive syllogism. A disjunctive syllogism is a here's a valid form of the disjunctive syllogism A or B, you have an option, not A, therefore B, or to put it another way, A or B, not B, Therefore, A any student of freshman logic is taught this disjunctive syllogism. Now, in the in the case of the Incarnation, we set up a disjunction between the supernatural and the natural view of Jesus, and we give you an argument against the natural view of Jesus A or B that is the suit, the supernatural versus the non-natural. But the natural, the naturalistic view of Jesus is absurd. It's self-contradictory, it's nonsense. Therefore, given those two choices, if if not, if B is false, then A is true. But what I show and C.S. Lewis leaves that somewhat ambiguous is that we can then go on and we can say, Well, there is see either Jesus was the Son of God or He was the devil incarnate. That's another C, but not C. No one thinks that Jesus was the devil incarnate. So we're back to a likewise A or D not D, therefore a.


[00:21:21] Now the resurrection. Let's relate this in the case of the resurrection. There are three and only three alternatives to the simple biblical truth that Jesus died and he rose again. And those three alternatives and we can view them as A or B, A, or C, A, or D, And what we're going to do is we're going to try and produce an argument against B, against C, against D, leaving the resurrection, standing alone at the end. Okay. Now, what's the first alternative? Jesus didn't die. It was a part of a plot. And here there are many versions of this. There's the Passover plot. Let's play around with that for just a minute. That's one of the more ingenious versions of of the theory Jesus and his disciples conspired that at a particular time in his crucifixion, they would hand him some drug and some drugs. And he would drink that and that would induce a death like state. Such that he maybe no pulse would show. There would be no signs that he's breathing. And then the body of Jesus would be put in the tomb. And then after he recovers consciousness, he comes forth like Superman. Okay. But of course, let's remember that the Romans took pretty good care to make sure that he was dead because they stuck that spear in his side. And out of that wound came blood and water, which indicates that the sword had at least pierced the pericardium, the sac around the cart, and had, in fact, pierced the heart as well. But. Here's the killer for all of these claims that Jesus didn't really die, that he only swooned, that maybe the swooning was a result of a plot or something else like that. And the answer lies in the information about what really killed victims of crucifixion.


[00:23:46] What did a crucified person really die from? Let me give you some options. Was it the loss of blood? No. Was it exposure? No. Was it dehydration? No. What killed the crucified victim? Suffocation. Did you all know that? Sure you did. Suffocation. Here's why. When you're hanging on a cross. You cannot breathe unless you can straighten your legs. That's why the feet were nailed or that's why there was, you know, in some cases there was a little piece of wood down there. Unless you can straighten your legs, you can't breathe. We could perform an experiment here to prove that. But it would be painful to the person that we we do it to. Now, if Jesus swarmed. If Jesus fainted. If Jesus was drugged, he couldn't straighten his legs, even if he was still semi-conscious. People watching him could say, Look, look, look, look at his legs. He's cheating. They. So he suffocates. So there's no way to get around that. Jesus was dead. There is no way he could have faked his death. Because it would have become obvious he would have had to straighten his legs. I mean, you get you know, you get here the clear in the car, you know, what happened to the other two thieves when it was when the Romans were through with their games, they they broke the legs of the two other three of the two thieves, and they died immediately. And that's why they broke the legs, to prevent them from straightening their legs so that they could. So they died of suffocation. So that takes care of the first alternative. Jesus wasn't dead. And, man, you can blow that up in all kinds of other ways. You can point out that if there was anything the Romans were going to do, they were going to make sure that Jesus was dead.


[00:25:54] They weren't going to allow, but it couldn't have happened anyway. Now, what's the second alternative? That someone stole the body. That he died. I mean, he had to die. The body was put in the tomb, and then somebody stole the body. Whenever you're in the presence of a liberal who's talking about the resurrection. Watch when they start saying the New Testament never says anything about the empty tomb. It does. It does. The tomb was empty. Where was the body? You've only got two alternatives here. Column E and F. Either the Friends of Jesus stole the body or the enemies of Jesus stole the body. Okay. What does the New Testament make clear about the disciples? They were scared to death. They weren't up in any room hatching a plot. They were hiding under the bed because they knew the Romans were coming after them next. They were cowards. These weren't brave conspirators. And I'm going to make a terrible admission here. You know where I'd be if I'd been there back then. I'd have been under the bed, too. I'd have been hiding in the closet. The jig was up. Jesus is dead. All of our dreams have been dashed. Let's get out of Jerusalem. Nothing. So the disciples. Would not have stolen the body. Because that that's not what was in there. They were they were they were afraid. Secondly, they couldn't steal the body because there was a garrison of Roman soldiers protecting the body. Now, liberals. Our indefatigable in all of this. They said well before the Roman soldiers rolled at the stone front of the tomb, they forgot to look inside. Yeah. Now you're the leader of that group of Roman soldiers. And you know that your life depends upon Jesus body being there.


[00:28:17] The next time that stone is rolled back. You mean to tell me those guys aren't going to go in and check the body? Who? I don't think so. So the friends of Jesus wouldn't have done it. And they couldn't have done it. The enemies of Jesus wouldn't have done it. The one they wanted this put to an end. Now, of course, after it was reported. That the body of Jesus was gone. Then the Jewish enemy said, Well, let's concoct this scheme that somebody came and stole the body because they had to. They had to come up with that. But of course, if they had the body, if the enemies of Jesus had the body, then it Pentecost. When Peter got up and preached the resurrection of Jesus, they could have rolled out a wheelbarrow. I mean, this is, you know. This seems irreverent, but you understand the point I'm trying to make. They could roll out a wheelbarrow and they could say, All right, you Christians here, your dead messiah. And there's the decomposed body of Jesus. So this idea of somebody this is this is pure desperation. Now, quickly, I got to hurry. The only last alternative. These are the only three is that all of these post resurrection appearances were hallucinations. That's so that's the so-called hallucination theory. Now, let me quote something. My good friend, my former good friend Tony Flue, the atheist said in a debate held at Liberty University, oh, ten or 12 years ago in a in a public debate that appeared in a book titled Did Jesus Rise from the Dead or something like that. It's in our library. It's a debate between Tony Flue and Gary Habermas. Tony flew got up the first meeting of the debate and he said, Unlike my atheist friends, I'm not going to take refuge in a theory of hallucination.


[00:30:25] That's the weakest, most contemptible, most despicable attempt to evade the resurrection of Jesus. And you're not going to find Tony floo taking refuge in the hallucination theory. By the time Gary Habermas has cleaned flu's clock. All right. On every other issue, by the end of the book, Toni, flu is hiding behind the hallucination theory. I mean, it's it's comical, except, you know, we're looking at people. Getting ready for judgment. Now, here's what's wrong with a hallucination theory. Hallucinations, of course, occur all the time. I've even been present when one of my relatives. Not well. My mother. When we finally decided she had to come live with us, we went to I mean, it's not easy to talk about this, but I was talking to her on the telephone and she said, Where are you now? She's she's 350 miles away from my home. And she says, Where are you? I said, I'm at home in Florida, in Orlando. No, She said, No, you've been just you were just in my house 10 minutes ago. You went up to the grocery store and got something to eat. I said, Mother, I'm 350 miles away. Now, in one sense, I can understand people hallucinating about me. A lot of people a lot of people would like me to be around when I'm not, you know, and I'm not making. My mother was on the wrong kind of medication. All right. So I'm not making fun of my mother at all. I love my mother dearly, but she was hallucinating. And I want to give you an example, but I understand from reputable sources here that hallucination is a person, a relative thing. Hallucinations are solo events. But I don't know a credible authority who says that more than one person can share a hallucinate.


[00:32:36] There is no such thing as a common event hallucination. And this is where I usually talk about the so-called miracle of Fadama. Because, you know, Roman Catholics, according to that whole business, were saying, well, thousands of peasants saw the Blessed Mother all at the same time. No, they didn't. All they saw was a cloud. And they interpreted the cloud to be. Mary. Now, in the case of the Pope's resurrection appearances, Jesus appears to all of the disciples in the upper room. That matches a kind of hallucination that's simply unheard of in psych psychological literature. And then, of course, he appears to 500 brethren at one time. At the essential. So the hallucination. This is a form of hallucination in which there is no scientific basis. Okay. So friends, Option B doesn't work. Option C doesn't work. Why don't you just admit to your world view prejudice here? And admit that the only answer that explains all of the phenomena is that Jesus was dead and he came back to life. And you want to know why you can't accept that? Because you're a slave to a naturalistic worldview. And you're going to let that slavery, that bondage. Keep you from a relationship with the savior who died for you. Thank you for listening to this lecture. Brought to you by biblical training, dawg. Your prayers and financial support enable us to provide a biblical and theological education that all people around the world can access. Blessings. As you continue to study and live out your faith and as you grow in your relationship with the Lord.