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abraham-and-isaac

In Genesis 22, we find a very strange and famous account of a moral dilemma: God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. For millennia it has been retold as an example of virtue and faith that Abraham would value God above even his own son whom he loved as he loved himself, but understandably many modern readers are shocked and think the story serves just the opposite lesson, that of foolish leaps of faith in an evil, contrary God. Why the discrepancy of reactions? Because some understand the God of the story while others don’t and, perhaps, try not to.

First of all, God does not advocate human sacrifice. In fact, he’s quite against it. When Israelites later begin to sacrifice their children to Molech, it is not simply a misplaced loyalty in a rival god that provokes God to wholeheartedly reject such a practice, it is the very idea of human sacrifice itself, whether to pursue personal ambition or religious sincerity (Jer 19:3-5). Also, God stops Abraham before it can happen. From the beginning of the story, we are told that God was testing Abraham by giving such a command. We may complain that the Judge of all the Earth ought not test in such a way, yet Abraham aces this final exam. It is not graded on how mindlessly obedient Abraham can be, but on actions based on informed trust in the God whom had been leading him. It’s graded on his love for God being properly greater than his love for his own life itself (Matt 10:37-39). God, likewise, shows his love for us in that he does not withhold his son, his only son, from us (Rom 8:3-4, 32). Isaac’s own trusting obedience foreshadows Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice.

God did not suddenly give Abraham this test of faith in a vacuum (Heb 11:17-19). It is also written that God had appeared and spoken with Abraham several times before. Each time, God makes promises and reassures him. He is told not to be afraid but to trust in God who will be his shield and provide for him, and that God will give him a land for his descendants. These descendants were promised to come through Isaac himself. So by obeying God, Abraham honored him as Lord and acknowledged God’s superiority of wisdom, faithfulness, and power—power even over death itself.

Who gives Human Rights?

Let’s say there’s a human rights violation.
Who is objective enough to point the finger?

Moral Relativism doesn’t point the finger.
Moral Relativism can’t.
Moral Relativism is live and let live
as well as live and let die.
Real Relativists let you act on your conscience.

If relativists begin to affirm real moral obligations,

like Human Rights,
then in what are those objective obligations grounded?
It cannot, by definition, depend on
 human feelings or opinions,
but is above what any human or group thinks
(else moral relativism).
The grounding cannot be in morally imperfect
human judges (that’s relativism).
The grounds must be in a morally perfect judge who
is superior to humanity: God.

If there is a real moral right or wrong to a situation,
then the right decision is . . .
that which reflects the perfect moral standard, God.

Sometimes people call themselves relativists meaning something like, “We cannot all agree on what is moral or immoral so let’s agree to morality that allows the most people to decide for themselves what is moral.” This makes Man the measure of morality, so we’re back to the top: Moral Relativism. We would find ourselves denying basic moral absolutes in order to affirm man-made freedoms and rights. God is the only one big enough to declare what is a Human Right and the only authority big enough to appeal to when Human Rights, such as the right to life, are violated by governments. But then the truth about what God thinks matters, but that is exactly whom the relativist would rather not acknowledge (Rom 1:28).

The Good News and the Law of Moses was the center of the very first controversy within the church, so don’t be caught unawares by people claiming that you don’t follow the Bible consistently if you follow Jesus and not the old laws of Israel about stonings and food restrictions.

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the [church], “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question…. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders…
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
(Acts 15:1-11 ESV)

In short, we’re saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Jesus alone. It is therefore consistent that we are not under the jurisdiction of laws pertaining to a particular region and time. Rather Jesus said he fulfilled those laws. The laws that remain for all to follow are the same laws that were always meant to be followed, namely the moral laws related to living as God designed humanity to live, to love Him and love others (as well as what love should look like).

Jesus is considered the new “High Priest” that will live forever as such, never to be replaced by a new comer. He was not a Levite, but rather his priesthood is superior to the Levite line of priests. And, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews reasons, “when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” (Hebrews 7:12)

Is purposeful “chance” even a reasonable alternative to purposeful design? “Chance,” by definition, “never purposes anything. If it did, it would not be chance.” Chance is just a synonym for non-purposed “accident”. When we say “by chance I happened to be going to the store at the same time as you,” we don’t mean that chance arranged or planned or otherwise caused the meeting. On the other hand, if you were to look at my schedule book and see the time and place and purpose to meet you at the store written there, then we’d have evidence for a purpose in that “chance” meeting so we should reject that chance had anything to do with it even if we could imagine a scenario where the notes in my schedule book were the result of a pencil dropping on it. Explaining that which has a purpose as caused by chance is self-refuting because chance is the non-purposeful. Can it be that “without purposing to do so, the non-purposive produces the purposive”? Perhaps “chance” is a more confident sounding way of saying, “I don’t know how this purposeful event came to be.” But “if it has a purpose in it, it is no longer chance.”*

Do you agree? Chance is thrown about like a god-force substitute so often that’s it is hard not to speak of it as a cause, but it isn’t, properly speaking, a cause of anything. The intent of this line of argument is to show that the universe’s design is not merely “highly probable” but actually “compellingly certain.”

*(Quotations from: R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, Arthur Lindsey in “Classical Apologetics: A rational defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics,” 1984, p133.)

Is it foolishness or blind faith or devoid of intelligence to believe that God created the world? The bias against views of creation in favor of more “scientific” views that random events from nothing made it all mindlessly are clearly dominate, but are they beyond reasonable questioning? Should we call either side mindless or unscientific if we can find good reasons and thoughtfulness in their work rather than name calling?

Reasonable inquiry calls for an explanation for the cause of the universe because we can be fairly sure that it began to exist. How did that happen? “God made it” isn’t a cop out if He really did make it. But how can we know if a mind is responsible for the universe rather than mindless forces of chaos? We know because we can see the evidences of design and mindful purpose in the information of DNA and in the fine-tuning of the universe. Accidents don’t create a life-permitting atmosphere, they take it. And accidents cannot assemble intelligible information. Even if they could, the odds would well be in our favor if we dismiss accident as a cause. Chaos never purposed anything, so it is a very poor explanation for all purpose.

“The God who made the world and everything in it . . . gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…”
(Acts 17:24-27 ESV)

It is a question posed largely to throw dust in the eyes rather than as a search for truth. How do I know that? I’ve looked at the myths of Osiris, the Egyptian “god” that is being compared favorably to Jesus, and saw for myself that the comparison is forced at best and even forged at worst.

A great way to answer a question like this is to do the side-by-side comparison yourself. Find an actual Egyptology website unconcerned about Jesus. Look at the differences and notice that similarities seem strangely absent.

A second, less painful way to answer it is to think for a moment: Osiris has no historical support for ever walking the earth, yet Jesus, John the Baptist (his cousin), and James (his brother) are clearly historical figures named by first century writers whether Christian, Jewish, Greek, or Roman. So already the differences should be enough to doubt the above question as a good reason to doubt.

Third, if a similarity like Osiris being murdered and then rebuilt to “live” in the world of the dead seems like a reason to doubt that Jesus was murdered and resurrected to live on earth, we haven’t come to terms with the evidence. If all we do is look at claims of other people being raised (or murdered), we still won’t know whether Jesus was. There could be 100 claims of other “gods” or people who were said to be raised (none whom demand our belief), but how do 100 liars, by lying, refute one honest man? They don’t. They simply cloud the issue.

Who done it?

Recently, much scholarship, both skeptical and Christian, has delved into a homicide detective’s approach to consider the basic facts about Jesus and his alleged resurrection. Becoming a detective, we find that the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus much resembles that of a murder case, except instead of a dead body at the crime scene, we have a walking, talking body. Everyone, believer or unbeliever, must account for at least these historical facts about Jesus if they are to adequately explain the origin of Easter.

Time of Death
Jesus was killed on April, AD 30 or 33, on Friday during the Jewish Passover. The cause of death was crucifixion and a Roman executioner confirmed his death by running him through with a spear. He was then buried in a rich man’s tomb, provided by Joseph of Arimathea, a ruling Jewish authority.

His Empty Tomb
Aside from the crucifixion, the Empty Tomb has been said to be the most reliable historical fact related to the case of the resurrection. It is by far the earliest explanation given, not only by Christians, but by Jesus’ Jewish and Roman enemies whose counter-claim was that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. A stolen body assumes an empty tomb.

Friends’ and Enemies’ Eye-witness Claims
Any detective considering an explanation of this murder mystery must also explain the eye-witnesses. They claim to see, to doubt having seen, to speak with, and to eat with Jesus after his body had “gone missing”. They claim this even though it often meant their death for stubbornly holding to it. We can even “interrogate” a once hostile witness named Paul of Tarsus by reading his letters. Paul says he hated Jesus until he met him face to face while on the road to persecuting more Christians in Damascus.

Read perhaps Cold-Case Christianity or GaryHabermas.com to investigate for yourself.

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