Becoming a Christian Case Maker
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.
—John the Apostle, 1 John 1:1–3 (NIV)
Following the evidence
If Christians could be trained to provide solid evidence for what they believe and good answers to unbelievers’ questions and objections, then the perception of Christians would slowly change. Christians would be seen as thoughtful people to be taken seriously rather than as emotional fanatics or buffoons. The gospel would be a real alternative for people to embrace.
—William Lane Craig
If you want to be a good Christian Case Maker (or you simply want to examine the case for Christianity for the first time), you’ll need to understand the power of cumulative cases. The Christian worldview is established in a collective manner: the reliability of the eyewitness Gospel accounts is built on more than one line of evidence. In fact, eyewitnesses are established based on four separate categories of evidence, expressed with four important questions: Were the eyewitnesses really present to see what they said they saw? Can their statements be corroborated or verified in some way? Have the eyewitnesses been honest and accurate over time? Do the eyewitnesses possess a bias or ulterior motive disqualifying them?
These questions must be considered collectively. In addition to this, the case for each category is also made cumulatively. The issue of corroboration, for example, is established on the basis of several unrelated lines of evidence, including archaeology, ancient Jewish writings, ancient non-Christian Greek writings, geographic internal evidence, linguistic internal evidence, correct use of proper nouns, and the unintentional eyewitness support.… The Christian worldview is also established cumulatively.
If we can learn to communicate the strength of collective cases such as these, we’ll become better Christian Case Makers. If you’re examining the case for Christianity for the first time, don’t stop at the “tree-line.” Go deep. Look at everything. Assemble and assess the cumulative case.
—J. Warner Wallace
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
—1 Corinthians 15:3–8 (NIV)
Who is Jesus?
To the unprejudiced historian, the historical facts regarding Jesus are as definite and evident as those of Julius Caesar. Not only do we find an accurate portrait of Him in the documents of the New Testament, but dozens of ancient non-Biblical manuscripts confirm that Jesus was a genuine historical figure who lived in Palestine in the early part of the first century.
Concerning the testimony of the many ancient secular accounts of Jesus, the Encyclopedia Britannica stated:
“These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time—and on inadequate grounds—by several authors during the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.”
One very outstanding and undeniably unique aspect of Jesus’ life is that literally hundreds of detailed predictions and prophecies were made by ancient prophets and seers, many centuries before He was born, including specific details regarding His birth, life, and death.
In the Old Testament, over 300 such predictions about the “Messiah” or “Savior” can be found. The discovery of hundreds of ancient Old Testament manuscripts by archaeologists during this century has proven without a doubt that these prophecies were indeed written before this man called Jesus was born.
In 750 B.C., for example, the prophet Isaiah made the astounding prediction that:
“The Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Seven and a half centuries later, a young virgin girl in Israel named Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, who announced to her that she would bear a son who would be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” The books of the Bible which were written after Jesus came to Earth, the New Testament, tell us that, “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, seeing I have not lain with any man?’ And the angel answered, ‘The Spirit of God shall come upon you, and the power of the Almighty shall overshadow you! Therefore that Holy One which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:26–35)
So even the very beginning of His life on Earth—His conception and birth—were not only unique, but miraculous! In fact, the Bible tells us that the news of her pregnancy was so shocking to the young man to whom she was engaged to be married, Joseph, that when he learned about it he promptly decided to break off the engagement and call off the wedding.—Until the angel of the Lord appeared to him also, and instructed him to stay with her and rear and protect the very special child that she was carrying.
A full 800 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Micah foretold the exact village where the Messiah would be born:
“You, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth unto Me who is to be ruler over Israel; whose goings forth have been of old, from days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)
Although His earthly parents lived in the town of Nazareth, 100 miles to the north of Bethlehem, a decree from Rome demanded that all families return to their ancestral homes to register for a worldwide census. The decree came just as Mary’s child was due to be born. Thus God used a Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, to help bring about the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy. Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem, and upon their arrival, Mary went into labor, and as the Gospels inform us, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,” (Matthew 2:1) just as the prophet Micah predicted.
Another outstanding prophecy regarding the circumstances surrounding the Messiah’s death was made by Israel’s King David around the year 1000 B.C., or over 10 centuries before Jesus was born. In his prophecy, David gave details of a cruel and agonizing death which he himself never suffered:
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, it has melted within me … Like a pack of dogs, they have surrounded me; a company of evildoers has encircled me. They have pierced my hands and my feet. They divide my clothing among them and cast lots for my garment.” (Psalm 22:14–18)
The fulfillment of over 300 Old Testament prophecies given many centuries before He was born, describing in detail His birth, His life, His work, His death, and His resurrection, provide proof of who Jesus is. There is also no reason to doubt that after His death, something incredible happened which transformed His tiny band of dejected followers into a company of witnesses who all the persecution of Imperial Rome could not stop. Downhearted and discouraged, their Lord cruelly crucified by His enemies, it looked to those disciples like their hopes had died and their dreams were shattered.
But three days after Jesus’ death, their faith was rekindled in such a dramatic manner that no force on earth was ever able to quench it! That lowly handful of His original followers went on to tell the entire world the good news in the face of persecution and martyrdom! That God not only sent His Son into the world to teach us His truth and show us His love, but also that Jesus suffered death for our sake, and then rose from the grave. The New Testament tells us that Jesus personally appeared to over 500 eyewitnesses after His resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:6) This was the resounding message that His first disciples boldly proclaimed throughout the world, “God raised Him from the dead!” (Acts 13:30)
—Excerpts from “Who is Jesus”
A work of God
For those who are tempted to think that presenting arguments and evidence is not spiritual because only God can change a rebellious heart, I made two observations. First, without the work of God, nothing else will work—not arguments, not love, not even the simple gospel.
Second, with the help of the Holy Spirit, God is pleased to use many things. Love and reason are especially appealing to him because both are consistent with his nature. The fact is, with God’s help, arguments work all the time. Jesus used them, Peter used them, Paul used them—all to great effect.
Understanding God’s central role in the process removes a tremendous burden. We can focus on our job—being clear, gracious, and persuasive—and then leave the results to God. We’re looking for those who are looking for us, in a sense—people whose hearts are already being touched by the Spirit. We can be alert for those sheep that hear Jesus’ “voice” and lift their heads, without troubling those who are not yet ready…
Instead of trying to get the cross in every encounter, just aim to put a stone in someone’s shoe. Try to give the person something to think about. Be content to plant a seed that might later flourish under God’s sovereign care.
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