Hello, friends! So, I'm back at it again this week as we continue our review of Natasha Crain's Keeping Your Kids on God's Side. In case you missed it, last week we covered Jesus' claim of being God. In a similar thread, this week we'll examine Natasha's question, "Did Jesus' followers really believe He was God?" as posed in Chapter 19 of her book. I'm afraid she's going to experience the same problem she had in the previous chapter, the unreliability of her source material. Of course, I realize that Natasha is writing to Christian parents who most likely assume that the Bible is historically factual and completely trustworthy; why wouldn't they? As I've said before, if everyone in your community holds to the same beliefs that you do, what's to question? And no worries... should an ounce of skepticism creep in, apologists are there to immediately subdue your every concern.
Natasha states, "The disciples witnessed amazing events during the three years of Jesus' ministry. In that time, Jesus healed people of all kinds of sickness, demonstrated His power over nature, raised people from the dead, and resisted every temptation." Of course, he did! How do we know? Because the Bible tells us so. Despite this, the disciples didn't necessarily understand Him to be God, at least not at first. She argues that it wasn't until the resurrection that they came to see Jesus as God, as demonstrated in these five points and supported with numerous Bible verses.
* First, we can see that they believed Jesus was God because they identified Him as the Creator of the universe.
* Second, the disciple Thomas verbally proclaimed that Jesus was God.
* Third, the disciples and Paul saw Jesus as the forgiver of sins.
* Fourth, Paul wrote that Jesus would judge sin.
* Fifth, the disciples were willing to die to proclaim the truth of the gospel--that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins, was buried, and was resurrected.
I highly recommend that the Christian not use the "...but the disciples believed, and they were willing to die for it!" reasoning in a friendly conversation with his/her neighborhood skeptic. Here's the thing. I would venture to say that most skeptics don't really care what the disciples believed or how they identified Jesus or what they were willing to die for anymore than the Christian cares what the followers of Thor believed. It's an ineffective argument for a couple of reasons. First of all, we're talking about New Testament books whose authors had the sole purpose of evangelizing, not in relaying historically accurate information, as explicitly stated in the verse below:
John 20:30-31 (ESV) 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (Emphasis mine)
Yes, the authors had an agenda (that you may believe), so a bombardment of Bible verses is not going to cut it, that is, if you're engaging with a skeptic. Furthermore, that Jesus had followers who believed that he was the Messiah and then came to believe that he was the risen God does not make the belief true. As we talked about in my previous post, the Heaven's Gate cult had followers who thought that their leaders were the real presentations of Jesus and God on Earth. Thirty-nine members died for their beliefs.
Up next week, "Why did Jesus need to die on a cross for our sins?" And with that in mind, I'll prep you with this hilarity:
*Final Note: In Part 4 of Natasha's book, she devotes several chapters to defending the Bible's reliability, addressing the trustworthiness of the biblical authors in addition to possible biblical errors and contradictions. For this reason, I'm refraining from going into great detail regarding this subject. We'll get there!