Scripture says that the commemoration of Christ's death, burial and resurrection will not cease until His return (1 Corinthians 11:26) and Christians to this day keep this remembrance with the bread and wine as He commanded. Furthermore, the unbroken continuance of the Passover and Lord's Supper offers a unique proof of the validity of the Bible. More than 100 years ago a Christian apologist named Leslie identified certain criteria which, if met by any event recorded in writing, establish it as truly historical:'BUDDHISTS IN BRITAIN'
1) that the original event be visibly witnessed by many and be widely reported at the time; 2) that a commemoration start from the very beginning and continue publicly: and 3) that this commemorative act be performed continuously from that time to the present.
Christianity obviously meets all three.
The Gospels, Acts and most of the Epistles were written while multitudes were still alive who would have disproved any account that deviated from the facts as they knew them. Imagine attempting, in the small country of Israel and so soon after the supposed events, to publish a fictitious account of alleged miracles, naming persons and places. Multitudes of people who were still alive from those days and from those regions would have rejected such tales as lies.
Remember, Christianity began in Jerusalem. It was based upon the claim that this Jesus, who was hailed by multitudes as the Christ and whose miracles were spoken of all over Israel and whom the Romans had crucified, had risen from the dead the third day. The very fact that 3,000 converted on the day of Pentecost in the heart of Jerusalem, and that thousands more continued day after day to join this "new faith," is indisputable evidence that these events really happened. The opposition did not deny the facts. Christianity was opposed only because it contradicted the authority and teachings of the rabbis.
Christianity was not a religious movement based upon ideology, but upon events which had to have actually happened. The claims could not have been presented right there in Jerusalem and throughout Judea (that Jesus of Nazareth had healed the sick, opened blind eyes, raised the dead and Himself resurrected, leaving behind an empty tomb) unless the events had verifiably occurred. For that reason Jesus told His disciples to begin their preaching in Jerusalem, to establish the church there first of all.
That short walk outside the city wall to verify that the tomb, which all Jerusalem well knew had been guarded by Roman soldiers, was indeed empty must have been taken by many skeptics. The word quickly spread in confirmation of this greatest of miracles; it had put God's stamp of approval upon the claims of Jesus Christ. Paul appealed to the knowledge of the facts possessed by the Roman officials whom he faced. Felix the governor, had more perfect knowledge of that way (Acts 24:22). Far from seeing anything contrary to the truth in Paul's testimony, "Felix trembled" as Paul reasoned with him (v25). And to King Agrippa, Paul declared.
For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him: for this thing was not done in a corner. (Acts 26:26)
The last two criteria prescribed by Leslie prevent the fabrication of a fictitious story years after the supposed date of the alleged event. Mark Hopkins applied this logic to the founding of Christianity:
'For any man to have invented the New Testament after the time of Christ. and to have attempted to cause it to be received. would have been as if a man had written an account of the [American] Revolution, and of the celebration of this day [July 4, 1776 ]...when [in fact] no revolution was ever heard of, and no one had ever celebrated the Fourth of July. Nor, when such a festival was once established, would it be possible to introduce any account of its origin essentially different from the true one.
But the case of...Christian[ity] is even stronger, because we have several different institutions which must have sprung up at its origin: because baptism and the Lord's Supper have occurred so much more frequently; and because the latter has always been considered the chief rite of a religion to which men have been more attached than to liberty or to life.'
There is no refuting these arguments, which secular historical evidence also supports. There is overwhelming corroboration of the New Testament in the non-Christian writings of that period, including even those of Christianity's enemies. Hopkins reminds us:
The Talmud [compilation of oral rabbinic tradition dating to about A .D .200] ... speaks of Christ, and of several of the disciples, by name ... of His crucifixion ... that He performed many and great miracles...
[Flavius] Josephus [Jewish historian c. AD. 37-100] lived at the time many of these events ... happened and was present at the destruction of Jerusalem ... [and] he confirms the accuracy of all that is said [in the New Testament] ... of Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Herodians ... [and of Christ's death and resurrection].
Tacitus [Roman historian and proconsul of Asia, c. A.D. 55-117] tells us that Christ was put to death by Pontius Pilate ... under Tiberius, as a malefactor; that the people called Christians derived their name from him; that this superstition arose in Judea and spread to Rome, where ... only about thirty years after the death of Christ, the Christians were very numerous ... [and] that the Christians were subjected to contempt and the most dreadful sufferings ... some were crucified: while others, being daubed over with combustible materials, were set up as lights in the night-time, and were thus burnt to death. This account is confirmed by Suetonius, and by Martial and Juvenal ...
Pliny [the younger] was propraetor of Pontus and Bithynia [A.D.112] ... Many [Christians] were brought before him for their faith in Christ ... [and] he condemned them to death ...
How strong must have been that primitive evidence for Christianity which could induce persons of good sense, in every walk of life, to abandon the religion of their ancestors, and thus, in the face of imperial power, to persist in their adherence to one who had suffered the death of a slave!
We might also refer to Celsus, and Lucian, and Epictetus, and the Emperor Marcus Antoninus, and Porphyry--who all throw light on the early history of Christianity, and all confirm, so far as they go, the accounts in [the New Testament] ... as do coins, medals, inscriptions.
One becomes a bit weary of the propaganda which is taught in universities and even in many seminaries and promoted in books and the media by "experts" who declare with an air of indisputable authority that the New Testament wasn't written until centuries later and that no writers of the time confirm it. The account Josephus gives of Christ's death and resurrection, even calling him "the Christ," has been attacked unsuccessfully by modern skeptics. Far from being refuted by his contemporaries, Josephus was honoured with Roman citizenship, a statue was erected to his memory and his writings were admitted into the Imperial Library in Rome.
Fanatics have always been willing to die out of loyalty even to a secular leader or political ideology or in hope of attaining paradise thereby (the case with Muslim suicide bombers today). However, even Ingersoll, the famous nineteenth-century atheist, admitted that no sane man would die for a lie. Yet the apostles and early Christian martyrs died testifying to facts (the miracles, resurrection, etc.) when they could have saved their lives by denying them.
Miracles? Hasn't science proved that miracles cannot occur? On the contrary, science can only deal with natural phenomena; and miracles, by very definition, are supernatural. In fact, miracles are inevitable if God is to interfere at all in the downward course of human affairs and of nature. Whenever God reaches in from outside to effect anything that is not according to the normal course of events (such as the Incarnation, salvation or raising the dead), it is a miracle.
Christianity isn't embarrassed by the recital of miracles in the Bible. On the contrary, Christianity (unlike Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, et al.) requires miracles and is based upon the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection of Christ. Next to that, feeding the multitude or healing the sick or even walking on water follow easily.
The Resurrection is the very heart of Christianity. Yet according to the 1996 Barna poll, 30 percent of those who call themselves "born-again Christians" do not believe in the physical resurrection of Christ. Obviously, they lack the essential conviction that the Resurrection is a proven fact. Without that conviction, one is not a Christian!
The arguments above are a small sample from many that could be quoted. Some may object that no further proof of Christianity is needed than the witness of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who personally know Christ as Saviour and Lord. But what about those who do not know Him?
The Bible teaches that faith must be founded upon fact, not upon feelings, intuition or emotion--much less upon blind submission to some religious authority. Paul wrote, "Prove all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). God himself says, "Come now, and let us reason together' (Isaiah 1:18) and has provided abundant factual evidence in the universe around us and in His Word. Jesus, after His resurrection, "shewed himself alive ... by many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3). It is therefore correct for Christians to be prepared to use the God-given evidence in answering the honest questions of sincere seekers.
Thus it is also shown to be a sign of utter desperation for people to reject belief in Jesus Christ and Christianity by clinging to the belief that we do not have an accurate Biblical record and the "Jesus-myth" - the idea that Jesus did not even exist, much less conduct a ministry as described in the New Testament - is readily refuted. You can only hold to such views out of ignorance or sheer bias.
With these facts in mind we now examine a religion which has over 5,000 volumes of sacred books of considerable disparity, and often contradictory teachings, and as many sects as volumes:
In October 1994 we wrote an article called 'BUDDHISTS IN BRITAIN' in reply to professing Anglican Graham Turner's series in the Daily Mail.'...(CHRISTIANS) HAVE PLASTIC BAGS ROUND THEIR HEADS...'!
'...FELLOW-ANGLICANS...SLACK AND INSIPID BY COMPARISON'!
Turner allowed M.P. Jonathan Aitken's wife, Lolicia, to tell us that:
'Christ is alive, the Holy Spirit is alive, but people have got blocked off from them. It's as if they have a plastic bag round their heads which stops them getting in touch with the spiritual world. Somehow the Buddhists are able to make holes through that plastic bag ... I feel they're alive, whereas I see so many priests who are dead. It's not their fault, they just seem unable to make those holes.'
Mrs Aitken's Roman Catholic background caused her to conclude:
'When someone's spiritually alive, you can touch it. It's like a radio frequency - and these Buddhist men, like the best Christian priests, have certainly found the right one.'
Turner agreed with much that she said and offered this view of the British Buddhist:
'Indeed, they make most of my fellow-Anglicans seem slack and insipid by comparison.'
He claimed to have no problem identifying monks 'of high spiritual quality' and welcomed their talk-tough approach which:
'makes a very welcome change from the soft and soggy approach which too often passes for love in some Christian churches.'
As you can read later we wrote to Turner to test his response to tough talk! His response was sadly predictable. Turner also encouraged us that something the churches could learn from 'the better quality Buddhists is the practice of meditation' - and we learnt that the Buddhists are teaching 'many Catholic monks and nuns.' Sister Elaine McInnes turned to Zen 'because I couldn't find anyone in the church who could help me to learn about silent prayer' - as a result she became both a nun and a Zen master!
'...IT HAS MORE THAN A TOUCH OF THE OCCULT ABOUT IT'!
'Buddhism has the virtue of being a do-it-yourself, suck-it-and- see religion ... you can start meditation ... chanting - without accepting any kind of faith or belief, still less allegiance to an institution' - declared Turner. Keith Ward, Regius professor of Divinity at Oxford, agreed that it is 'an 'open door' affair where you could start meditating before you were asked to believe in anything:
' Without questioning what this meditation causes you to focus on - because there are no obvious goals, or absolutes of any kind'
Ward declared that 'Buddhism can be 'a useful add on to Christianity'' and speaks of 'a good many young people....who have become involved with Buddhism and then returned to Christianity.'!
'...DON'T NEED FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT STUFF'!
Ward finally touched on an aspect of Buddhism that caused him concern and which is the real back-bone of the religion--despite the deluded denials of the adherents:
'Tibetan Buddhism is one of the most superstitious religions I've come across. They believe in demons and spirits of all kinds. What's more, it may look as if no belief is required to be a Buddhist, whereas, in fact, there are very strong beliefs buried not far below the surface ... some forms of Buddhism involve a kind of magic ... the notion that if you chant 25,000 times for something you'll get it has more than a touch of the occult about it.'!
'...UNBELIEVABLY SLOPPY...SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS...'!
So, Ward finally made the connection between the occult and the dangers of meditating with an open mind - although he was clearly incapable of spotting the link because he recommended the religion to Christians as a 'benefit'! The 'professor' discounted the supernatural - 'superstitious ... beliefs in demons and spirits' - and was clearly incapable of seeing that opening your mind to the unknown will bring in unwanted attention from the demons and spirits who are only too keen to persuade us that we don't need any of that 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit stuff' - as a Buddhist practitioner put it on the first day of the series.
Ironically, Buddhist Lama Yeshe earlier explained that Christianity is not flourishing because:
'they have lost its essence, the inner touch of genuine Christian teaching.'
Christians are certainly not going to get 'genuine Christian teaching' from Buddhism and meditating on the unknown! What can a Buddhist know of the reality of Christ and the 'leading into all truth' that can only come from the Holy Spirit?! (John 14:17; 16:13)
AN IMPROVEMENT ON 'MUSLIMS IN BRITAIN'?!
Turner was apparently worried that Buddhists reveal 'many double standards' in their lives and was particularly concerned at their 'unbelievably sloppy ... sexual relationships ... the fact that so many Buddhist marriages founder...' But he still managed to conclude that:
'meditation is its most valuable feature. The great weakness of Christianity, as currently practised, is that it expects belief before it has helped people to find a real, and not merely emotional, experience of God. Meditation, properly practiced, could be the bridge to help them find that experience. It was for me.'
Considering the problems that his church had then with sexual matters - sadly revealed by Joan Bakewell's 'Everyman' programme on BBC TV a few weeks before his article appeared - Buddhists must have been astounded at his hypocrisy!
'...CLOYING PIETY WHICH MARS SO MANY CHRISTIAN
'...NOT A COMMA OF THE KORAN HAS BEEN CHANGED...'!
Turner is no stranger to 'head in the sand' statements, as his previous article on another major religion - 'Muslims in Britain' - revealed in 1989. Although the series excelled in examining the Muslim way of life (in Britain--ignoring the very different face seen where Islam dominates!), Turner skated neatly around the other sides of Islam which have long been a feature of the promulgation of this religion. Recent exposure of every kind of abuse by Muslim clerics has been revealed by the British media and they have shown the same propensity for covering-up the facts to protect their men. Turner was quick to attack the 'cloying piety which mars so many Christian evangelicals' whilst ignoring the implications of growing Muslim influence in Britain. I wrote to him pointing out that 'Jesus said, 'Judge not lest you are judged more harshly.' I also asked if 'he was free of all piety for it has been written: 'One man's piety is another man's poison.''
'...SATAN DISGUISES HIMSELF AS AN ANGEL OF LIGHT...'
Turner had written (as if it were a FACT!):
'Indeed, Muslims are proud that not a comma of the Koran has been changed since it was written 1,400 years ago'
So I asked him if he had checked out this statement before printing it without comment, for there is concrete evidence in the best works of Islamic tradition (e.g. the Sahih of Muslim, the Sahih of Bukhari, the Mishkat-ul-Masabih) that from the start the Koran had numerous variant and conflicting readings. These were removed by the Caliph Uthman who, during his reign, found so many variant readings scattered among Muslim believers that he had one copy made from the manuscript in the possession of Hafsah (one of the wives of Mohammed) - and then all other variants were destroyed.
Unfortunately for the Caliph not everyone surrendered their copies of Mohammad's writings & therefore at least seven variants from his version remain in existence. Turner seemed unconcerned that he was advertising Islam dangerously, so I enquired if he was aware that the incredible devotion of the Jewish people to the accurate copying of the Torah, and the notable preservation of the New Testament papyri, show the Bible to be second to none in its accuracy? I also pointed out that Britain needs to remember the powerful spiritual, moral, and social teachings of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ - and not how to embrace the pale counterfeit that is the Koran.
'...UNBELIEVABLY SLOPPY 'CHRISTIAN VIEWS' FROM THEIR
Christians remember that the Apostle Paul warned us to steer clear of anyone, even an 'angel from heaven,' who preached a Gospel contrary to that of Christ (Galatians 1:6-9), for 'Satan disguises himself as an angel of light' (2 Corinthians 11v14). When we read accounts of Mohammed's first vision we find that the angels that appeared to him did indeed bring a different gospel - a gospel of law and ritual. 'The Satanic Verses' are closer to the truth than Salman Rushdie may know. Finally, I made a few enquiries inviting a reply from Turner:
'Your article was such a good advert for Islam that I find it difficult to comprehend that a Christian could assist in the promulgation of a 'gospel' which is contrary to that preached by Jesus and the Apostles. How do you think Paul would have reacted to your work? Which Scriptures would you quote to support the stance you portrayed through this article? Do you agree with the statement of Naaser Ahmed Amini that, 'After all, you and I pray to the same God'? Do you think that a Christian can write articles on other religions without putting forward some questions which help the reader to examine the facts and truths behind the rituals and laws? There are other questions that spring to mind but the most important ones concern the effect your article may have had on a person who is searching for an answer to life's questions? Do you think you have turned them towards Christianity or Islam? Finally, for what purpose did Christ die - was it so that we should be saved and be a witness for Him? What affiliation does light have with darkness - for a 'gospel' which denies the Deity of Christ and His resurrection and which is indeed anti-Christ?
In due course a reply from Turner arrived - this was 'short but revealing'. He claimed that he was not sitting in judgement on Islam - so I pointed out: 'You're correct. You were not sitting in judgement on Islam, you were sitting in judgement on Christianity. Hence your unnecessary digs at 'pious evangelicals' and the C of E.' Surprisingly, he wrote that he 'did not care to be catechised by a complete stranger.' I wrote back and apologised for assuming that, since he 'seemed' to appear on the 'Jesus - Then and Now' video (explaining what repentance meant to him), I didn't think he would mind sharing his beliefs with 'a total stranger'.... I can just imagine the apostles refusing to spread the Gospel because they would have to share with total strangers.' He accused me of having 'a great sense of your own rectitude' - to which I replied: 'Actually, I have a 'great sense' of the rectitude of the Bible which cuts sharper than any two-edged sword. When people refuse to answer Bible-based questions it is only because they cannot - or to do so would be too embarrassing.'
MYSTICS...KENNY AND TURNER...'
Sadly, there are many spokesmen allegedly speaking for Christianity who are more the 'enemies of the cross' (Philippians 3v18) than the beliefs they are supposedly reviewing! The Daily Mail presents itself as a great moral leader, but it tempers some unbelievably sloppy 'Christian views' (from their mystics, Mary Kenny & Graham Turner) with the stronger morals of Paul Johnson - who has little time for anyone who does not embrace 'his' (Roman Catholic) traditions. Unfortunately, they also have their occultic horoscopes, New Age 'health page', and the occasional rambling piece - including inaccurate and irrelevant articles by Andrew Alexander (e.g. 'The Myth of Gospel Truth' - you could drive a dozen buses through his reasoning which relied on 'feelings' far more than logic!)
Around this time Eric Shegog (General Synod of the C. of E.) replied to criticism which appeared in a Daily Mail article: 'Does the Church of England still Believe in God', by spelling out some facts:
(a) The C. of E. had raised more than £16 million to support inner-city projects;
(b) a new congregation had been set up every two weeks since 1991;
(c) membership steady at 1.5 million since 1988;
(d) 225,000 baptisms in 1991, most ceremonial funerals and one-third of marriages are C. of E.;
(e) work of the C. of E. Children's Society - and the Mother's Union;
(f) Bishop of London's success in tabling amendments to Education Act in 1988 to ensure majority of acts of school worship were broadly and mainly Christian.
On sexual matters his reply was not so convincing:
'I thought blaming the Church for the spread of AIDS was really pathetic. The House of Bishops has stressed that sexual relations belong in the context of marriage and that same-sex love cannot be regarded as equal to heterosexual love. What else does he expect?'
Has the situation got better, or worse, since Shegog wrote to the Daily Mail?
I believe that Christians expect a Biblical view - immoral behaviour leads to eternal separation from God (Revelation 21v8), in Hell, if you die unrepentant (Acts 2v38).