Saturday, February 11, 2017
October 31, 2017 will mark the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door and igniting the Protestant Reformation. Already, celebrations are underway to commemorate this momentous, world-changing event and this is presenting both a challenge and an opportunity for Pope Francis and the Catholic Church.
On the one hand, it is an opportunity for Catholics to demonstrate Christian charity and unity by honoring Luther and participating in these events. On the other hand, it is a challenge because the Catholic Church officially rejects Luther and labels him a heretic.
In nailing his 95 Theses to the church door, Luther, a Catholic priest and University professor, was challenging his church’s practice of selling indulgences. These indulgences offered forgiveness of sins and freedom from purgatory, all for a price.
From there, Luther went on to challenge papal authority and the sacramental system of the Catholic Church. Ordered to appear before a tribunal of cardinals, bishops and the Roman Emperor, Luther was ordered to recant his teachings or suffer excommunication, which could also mean death.
Luther told this court, meeting in the city of Worms and known as the Diet of Worms, that he was willing to recant but only if convinced by reason and the Scriptures that he was in error. The Roman hierarchy, however, was not in the habit of “reasoning” with those who challenged their authority, and they demanded that Luther admit his error there on the spot.
In his famous reply, which struck a blow for individual freedom and religious liberty, Luther said,
"I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves. I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God; thus I cannot and will not recant anything, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand! God help me! Amen!"
Luther was excommunicated and had to live as a fugitive in hiding for a time. But out of his bold stand for the Gospel, there emerged the Lutheran Church and then other churches and movements emerged as the Reformation grew and expanded.
The challenge for Pope Francis and the Catholic Church this year is how far will they go in embracing Luther? After all, Luther is still a heretic and Protestant churches are not true churches according to official Catholic doctrine.
Pope Francis has thus far been positive in statements he has made about Luther and these celebrations. However, if Francis is truly serious about Christian unity, here are three steps he could take that would clearly demonstrate that his commitment to Christian unity is more than mere words.
1) Issue an official statement encouraging Catholics around the world to participate in these celebrations with their Protestant brothers and sisters.
2) Remove Luther’s excommunication and ban as a heretic.
3) Recognize Lutheran and Protestant churches as true churches rather than mere “Christian communities,” and Protestant believers as full and complete Christians rather than “separated brethren.”
Although there have been Catholic/Protestant dialogues involving theologians that have resulted in agreements on issues such as justification by faith, official Catholic policy since Vatican II has not changed. Luther is a heretic and Protestant churches are not true churches.
This 500-year anniversary of the Reformation is a great opportunity that most likely will never exist again. I pray that Pope Francis and the Catholic Church will seize the opportunity and show that they are truly serious about Christian unity.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
In a meeting with Delaware Indian chiefs in 1779, George Washington commended them for their request that their youth be trained in American schools. He assured the chiefs that America would look upon them “as their own children” and then said,
"You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention."
Compare Washington’s attitude with government policy today that forbids those working to resettle refugees in this country from talking about their faith or mentioning the name of Jesus. This multicultural, politically correct government policy has rejected Washington’s vision for America and denies people the hope and happiness of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
The Original American Vision
Indeed, the original American vision was for a land of individual liberty and a place from which the Gospel would be spread to the ends of the earth. America’s Founders were not shy in expressing this vision for they believed, that in this world, real freedom could only be realized in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This link between freedom and the Gospel was expressed by America’s second president, John Adams, just two weeks before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. In a letter to his cousin, Zabdiel, a minister of the Gospel, he wrote, “Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion [Christianity] and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles, upon which Freedom can securely stand (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 174).
Adams was not expressing anything new or novel for the idea of freedom rooted in the Gospel of Christ was a common American belief brought here by the very first European immigrants to this land. Consider the following quotes.
“From these very shores the Gospel shall go forth, not only to this New World, but to all the world.”
Rev. Robert Hunt, April 29, 1607, as he and the Jamestown settlers, who had just landed at Cape Henry, gathered in prayer around a large oak cross they had brought from England.
“Having undertaken for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith . . . a voyage to plant the first colony in northern Virginia.”
From the Mayflower Compact, the governing document of the Pilgrims who formulated it upon their arrival in the New World in November of 1620.
“Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the Liberties of the Gospel in purity and peace.”
Opening statement of the Articles of Confederation for ‘The United Colonies of New England,” dated May 29, 1643. This confederation of New England towns and colonies was formed for mutual security and to arbitrate land disputes among the growing population.
“Might it not greatly facilitate the introduction of pure religion among the heathen, if we could, by such a colony, show them a better sample of Christians than they commonly see.”
Benjamin Franklin in a 1756 letter to George Whitefield, the most famous preacher of the Great Awakening, in which Franklin proposed that they partner together in founding a Christian colony on the Ohio frontier.
“Pray that the peaceful and glorious reign of our Divine Redeemer may be known throughout the whole family of mankind.”
Samuel Adams, Founding Father and Governor of Massachusetts. This call to prayer was part of a proclamation for a Day of Prayer that he issued as Governor of MA in 1795.
“Pray that all nations may bow to the scepter of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that the whole earth may be filled with his glory.”
John Hancock, Founding Father, President of the Continental Congress and Governor of Massachusetts. This statement was part of a call for prayer he issued while Governor.
“The policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind.”
James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution and America’s fourth president, voicing his opposition in 1785 to a bill that he perceived would have the unintended consequence of hindering the spread of the Gospel.
“The philosophy of Jesus is the most sublime and benevolent code of morals ever offered man. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen.”.
Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence and America’s third president, who took money from the federal treasury to send missionaries to an American Indian tribe and to build them a chapel in which to worship.
“Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son, Jesus Christ.”
From a public prayer prayed by George Washington, America first president.
No Real Liberty Without the Gospel
It is obvious from the above quotes that America’s Founders believed freedom and Christianity to be inextricably linked. They believed so strongly in the Gospel as the basis of human freedom that they unashamedly prayed and publicly expressed their desire to see it spread throughout the earth.
Recent presidents have sought to export American style democracy to other nations apart from the Gospel of Christ. Indeed, the entire Western world is seeking to secularize liberty and remove it from any association with faith.
The Founders would say that such efforts are futile since true liberty cannot be had apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Washington made this plain in his Farewell Address where he warned the fledgling nation that two things—Christianity and morality--must be guarded if they were to be a happy people. These, he said, are “indispensable supports” for political prosperity (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 169).
The linking of liberty with the Gospel of Christ in America was obvious to the young French sociologist, Alexis de Tocqueville, who came to America in 1831 to study her institutions. Arriving on the heels of the Second Great Awakening, he exclaimed, "The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 168).
He also observed that the means of improving the government were the same means employed in conversion and the advancement of the Christian faith. He concluded that, in America, “From the beginning, politics and religion [Christianity] contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 168).
Reject the Lie, Recover the Vision
The day after approving the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion or hindering the free exercise thereof,” the Founders issued a proclamation for a national Day of Prayer. They could do this because the First Amendment was merely their way of saying that America would never have an official, national church like the nations of Europe at the time. Nothing more!
Modern secularists have been very successful in turning the First Amendment on its head and convincing much of America that it bans expressions of faith from the public square. More than any other tool, this Lie has been used to trash George Washington's vision for America.
It is time for this generation to rise up, reject the Lie and recover the vision of Washington and America’s Founders. It is time to realize, with the Founders, that true freedom and happiness can only be found in Jesus Christ and to purposely withhold the Good News from anyone is cruel and inhumane.
Finally, America’s Founders, to one degree or another, were all impacted by the Great Awakening (1726-1770). A nation birthed in Spiritual awakening can only survive by being blessed with such periodic awakenings, and these have been a part of America's history. Our land is ripe for another such awakening and it will come as God’s people earnestly pray and boldly proclaim the truth that is in Jesus.
George Washington, I am sure, would approve this message.
George Washington, I am sure, would approve this message.
This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's book, Pilgrims and Patriots, available from Amazon and his website @ www.eddiehyatt.com.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
The pastor invited me to preach on a Sunday morning and then alerted me that gold dust had been miraculously appearing in their services. My response was open but cautious. Open because I value manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but cautious because there is no example of such a manifestation in Scripture, and Scripture is our primary guide for testing the spirits and judging manifestations.
I preached that Sunday morning and as I was finishing my message I noted that the children began coming from children’s church into the auditorium to be with their parents. Almost immediately there was a commotion toward the back of the auditorium. I paused and someone announced, “The gold dust has appeared.”
I politely acknowledged their excitement and concluded my message.
Later, I was standing by my book table in the foyer of the church when I noticed the children’s pastor coming toward me covered in gold dust. I asked, “What is that all over you?” She replied, “O we were playing with the glittery stuff in children’s church today.”
I immediately recalled that it was when the children came into the auditorium that the excitement erupted about the miraculous appearance of gold dust. I smiled and thought to myself, “I have discovered the source of their gold dust.”
Now, that was a harmless situation. However, if we are careless about “thinking critically” in the small things of life we will be careless in the larger things that could cost us our life.
This is what happened in 1978 when over 900 people, many of whom who had been members of evangelical and charismatic churches, followed a charismatic preacher—Jim Jones—to South America and committed mass suicide with him. There were many indicators that things were not right but they were unwilling to “think critically” about the man and his actions.
To “think critically” is not about being negative or judgmental. “Criticism,” in the academic sense, is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation.” Therefore, to “think critically” is to question, consider and evaluate a situation or manifestation.
Being Open Without Being Naive
Let me be clear in saying that I value Spiritual gifts. I was catapulted into ministry 45 years ago when Aquilla Nash gave a powerful prophecy to a shy young man who could not speak in public but was carrying an intense call of God in his heart. That young man was me and that prophecy confirmed all that was in my heart and gave me the confidence I needed to step out in obedience to God’s call.
About one year after this experience of being “launched,” I was preaching an extended revival meeting in a church in Oklahoma. One night a visiting preacher called me aside and spoke a word of prophecy over me. Although I don’t remember what he said, I do remember the conversation with the pastor and his mother after the service as I rode with them to their home where I was staying.
They asked about the prophecy and what I thought about it. They then expressed their firm belief that God does not speak through personal prophecy. As we talked, the pastor, Jess, who was single and in his fifties, shared about a devastating experience he had with personal prophecy as a young man in his twenties.
He told about having a close friendship with a young woman who attended the same church as he and his family. Although they were not formally engaged, he loved her and thought she was probably the one he would someday marry.
She went away to spend the summer with relatives in another state. Towards the end of summer a person at church asked, “Did you hear about Lois?” Jess replied, “No, I haven’t heard from her.” The person replied, “She got married.”
Jess was shocked and devastated. How could this be! He learned later that in the church she attended with her relatives, a person prophesied to her that God had brought her there to marry a young man in the congregation. Wanting to obey God and not having been taught to question spiritual things, she and the young man married.
The marriage was an abject failure. Jess said that several years later they divorced and she returned to Oklahoma with three small children, very disillusioned with life and questioning aspects of her faith in God. Jess never married and passed away in his seventies.
Things could have been very different if they had understood the need to "think critically." Instead, Lois acted naively and accepted the prophecy without questioning it. Jess then reacted in the opposite direction and rejected all prophecy as a viable means of God speaking.
The Biblical Admonition to “Think Critically”
Yes, in these days when spirituality and the supernatural are being emphasized, it is crucial that we also emphasize the importance of learning to “think critically.” In fact, Scripture commands us to “think critically.”
The verse concerning this is I Corinthians 14:29 where Paul says, Let the prophets speak and let the others judge. The “others” in this passage would be the “others” in the Christian assembly, which in Paul’s day met primarily in homes.
The word “judge” is from the Greek word diakrino and although it is variously translated as “judge,” “discern” and “weigh carefully,” the word literally means “to separate” or “to discriminate.”
In other words, we are to sit in judgment and separate truth from error. This is what it means to “think critically” and it is the responsibility of the entire body of Christ.
This then raises the question of how this is to be done? What are the criteria used to separate the true from the false?
I will here offer five criteria, or tests, for “thinking critically” about spiritual manifestations. These five tests include (1) a heart test, (2) a vision test, (3) a word test, (4) a freedom test and (5) a character test.
The Heart Test
I often receive emails from people telling about a meeting they attended, and although it was Christian, they will say, “Something just didn’t seem right.” I always tell them, “Listen to your spirit! Listen to your heart!” The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth--who is on the inside of you will alert when there is error and witness to truth.
John speaks of this “heart test” in I John 2:18-27. In verse 26 he makes clear that he is writing concerning those who try to deceive you. In other words, discriminating between that which is true and that which is false is the context for verse 27, where he says,
"But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."
The Greek word for “anointing” in this passage is chrisma and is very similar to the Greek word for “Spiritual gift” in I Corinthians 12:4, which is charisma. Only the Greek letter alpha is missing from the word in I John 2:27.
I mention this to make the point that this “anointing” in I John 2:27 is something possessed by every true believer and is directly related to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus promised that with the coming of the Spirit of truth, He will guide you into all truth.
You have a truth detector dwelling on the inside of you. When, therefore, facing questionable spiritual activity, listen to your heart. Do you have a sense of peace inside? Or is there a troubling or upset in your spirit? This is the "heart test." Listen to your heart.
The Vision Test
This test is related to the focus, vision or goal of the person or message in question. What is their focus and passion? What is their ultimate vision or goal? Is it themselves? Is it their own ministry? Or is it Jesus Christ?
In John 16:14, Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit had come, He will glorify Me. The Holy Spirit does not come to glorify angels, preachers, churches or denominations. The Holy Spirit is here to lift up and honor Jesus Christ. Revelation 19:10 is very clear in saying, The spirit of prophesy is the testimony of Jesus.
In his introductory statement to the gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12:1-3, Paul makes it clear that gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, must occur in a context where Jesus Christ is recognized and confessed as Lord. Commenting on this passage, Dr. Gordon Fee says,
"The ultimate criterion of the Spirit’s activity is the exaltation of Jesus as Lord. Whatever takes away from that, even if they be legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself."
When faced with questionable words and actions, apply the “vision test.” Ask yourself about the person’s passion and vision. Do they exhibit a vision and passion to honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ? Or is their vision more about themselves? This is the “vision test.”
The Word Test
The “word test” asks, “Is this compatible with the overall testimony of God’s word?” God will never say something today that contradicts or is out of character with what He has said in the past through the Scriptures. To use an extreme example, God will never tell a man to divorce his wife and marry another woman, for that would contradict everything He has already said about marriage.
At the Asusa Street Revival (1906-09) where many spiritual manifestations were occurring, the leaders, including William Seymour, emphasized making the Bible the standard for judging those manifestations. In response to a question concerning whether it was necessary to study the Bible after being filled with the Holy Spirit, they answered,
"Yes, if not we become fanatical or many times will be led by deceptive spirits and begin to have revelations and dreams contrary to the Word, and begin to prophesy and think ourselves some great one, bigger than some other Christians. But by reading the Bible prayerfully, waiting before God, we become just humble little children, and we never feel that we have got more than the least of God’s children."
The sixty-six books of the Bible comprise what is called “the canon.” The reason it is called “the canon” is that in ancient times a “canon” was a measuring tool, usually a reed, used like a measuring tape or a yard-stick. From earliest times, the sixty-six books of the Bible have been recognized as the canon, i.e., the rule or standard, by which every other teaching, revelation and doctrine must be measured. As Psalm 119:105 says, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
When faced with questionable doctrines or manifestations, apply the “word test.” As it says in Isaiah 8:20, To the Law and to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.
The Freedom Test
Galatians 5:1 says, Stand fast in the freedom, wherewith Christ hath made us free; and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Paul is not talking about freedom to be self-indulgent and to sin. Paul was warning that if a person, a church, a movement or a leader tries to put you in bondage and outwardly control your life – that’s not God!
God has not called us to a religion, but to a relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 11:28 when He said to the people of Israel, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will rest you (literal translation).
As a young Christian, I thought Jesus, in this passage, was calling to people burdened down with sin. I later learned that He was speaking to religious people who were burdened down with religious duty and obligation, which had been substituted for a living relationship with Himself.
The rabbis had identified 613 commands in the Torah; 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. Many Pharisees of Jesus day believed that if all Israel kept the law for one day then Messiah would come. They, therefore, called upon Jews to take upon themselves the “yoke of the law,” by committing themselves to do their level best to keep all 613 commands.
This had resulted in many in Israel being weighed down and burdened with religious duty. Jesus called them away from all this religion into a living relationship with Himself. (See Matt. 11:28-30)
Beware of those who try to control you and would place you under rules and regulations that have nothing to do with nurturing a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is the "freedom test."
The Character Test
In Matthew 7:15 Jesus said, Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous [greedy] wolves. These false prophets project one thing on the outside but are something completely different on the inside. They have no integrity.
Jesus used the word “ravenous” to describe these false prophets and ravenous is an extreme form of greediness that will destroy others to get what it wants. Jesus went on to say in vs. 16, You will know them by their fruits. Note that Jesus said we would know them, not by their gifts, but by their fruit, i.e., their character.
A person once sent me an email with a prophecy someone had sent to them and asked me what I thought about it. When I saw who had given the prophecy my first thought was, “I wouldn’t trust anything this person has said or prophesied.”
This was my response because I knew enough about this person over a number of years to cause me not to trust him. This was not a matter of someone who failed and then asked for forgiveness. This was a matter of someone with a track record of not walking in truth and integrity.
Some will protest by saying, “Oh, but we shouldn’t judge anybody.” When Jesus said, Judge not lest you be judged, he was talking about having a censorious, judgmental attitude. He was not talking about exercising “critical thinking” in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones from those who would take advantage of us.
The fact that Jesus tells us in this passage to “beware” of false prophets requires that we “think critically” in order to determine that they are not legitimate. The fact that He said we would know them by their fruit requires an assessment and determination concerning their character.
It is interesting that in Paul’s list of criteria for those who will serve as overseers in the church, each requirement is related to character (I Timothy 3:1-7). No matter how well a person may preach; no matter how well they may prophesy; no matter how well they may sing, the Bible is very clear that character counts.
When in question about a situation or person, don’t be afraid to apply the “character test.” This is not a demand for perfection, but an insistence on integrity, honesty and uprightness.
When it comes to the supernatural, we should have an attitude of being open without being naïve and being critical without being judgmental. This will allow us to enjoy the fullness of God's blessings and at the same time be protected from the many deceiving spirits at work in the world today.
Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author, historian, Bible teacher and revivalist. His books on revival in church and American history are available from Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.
Monday, December 19, 2016
Believing in Jesus Christ and His miraculous birth does not require the so-called “blind leap of faith.” In fact, there is as much evidence for the virgin birth of Christ as any event of ancient history. Here are 5 compelling reasons for believing the Gospel story, that Jesus Christ was supernaturally born of a virgin.
1. Documented by a physician and world-class historian
2. Modern archaeology affirms it
3. An agnostic professor of mythology is convinced
4. Old Testament prophets predicted it centuries in advance
5. The earliest Christians believed it universally
1. Documented by a physician & world-class historian
At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke indicates that he has made a thorough investigation of the things about which he is writing, which included his utilization of eyewitness accounts. He spent extended periods of time with Paul in Jerusalem and Judea and would have had the opportunity to interview those who were closest to the event, including Mary herself.
There is no reliable information on how long Mary lived, but some traditions say she lived as much as 24 years or longer after the resurrection. The detail Luke presents does indicate that he has derived his information from a primary source, either Mary herself or someone to whom Mary had relayed the intimate details of the event.
The well-known Greek scholar, Kenneth S. Wuest, noted Luke's attention to detail and in his book, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, he said, "If Mary was still alive, he, a doctor of medicine, investigated the story of the virgin birth by hearing it from Mary's own lips."
The accuracy of Luke as a historian was confirmed by the famous historian, A.N. Sherwin-White, who carefully examined his references in Luke/Acts to 32 countries, 54 cities, and nine islands, finding not a single mistake.
Sir William Ramsay, who spent years in Asia Minor following and examining Luke's account of Paul's travels, wrote in The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, "You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment."
We have every reason to assume that Luke's carefulness to get his facts right extended to his account of the birth of Christ. Luke, in fact, gives the most detailed account of the Nativity and mentions Mary 12 times, more than any other biblical writer. In addition to the birth of Christ, he also gives special, detailed attention to the birth of John the Baptist and many see his gynecological interests to be a result of his training as a physician.
Challenging the claims of critics that the story of the virgin birth was based on a hoax, the noted Greek scholar, Professor John A. Scott, reminded the naysayers of Luke's reputation as a historian. Pointing to his attention to detail and accurate reporting, Scott declared, "You could not fool Doctor Luke."
2. Affirmed by modern archaeology
Luke's status as a world-class historian, accurate in even the smallest details, has been brought to light by modern archaeology. For example, Sir William Ramsay, considered one of the greatest archaeologists of all time, originally thought he would scientifically discredit Luke's accounts by visiting and examining the places mentioned in his Gospel and Acts.
Ramsay was a student of the skeptical, German higher criticism of the 19th century and he taught that the New Testament is an unreliable religious treatise written in the mid-second century by individuals far removed from the events described. But after years of retracing Luke's account of Paul's travels and doing archaeological digs along the way, Ramsay completely reversed his view of the Bible and first-century history.
Ramsay became convinced that Acts was written in the first century by the traditional author, and he acquired a very high regard for Luke as a historian. He wrote, "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians."
In 1896, Ramsay began publishing his discoveries in a book entitled St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen. The book caused a furor of dismay among the skeptics of the world, for its affirmation of the biblical record was totally unexpected.
Over the next 20 years, he published other volumes showing how he discovered Luke to be accurate in the tiniest details of his account. The evidence was so overwhelming that many atheists gave up their atheism and embraced Christianity.
At one time, it was thought that Luke had completely missed the boat concerning the events he portrayed surrounding the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-5). Critics argued that there was no census and that everyone did not have to return to their ancestral home. They also pointed out that Josephus had dated the governorship of Quirinius of Syria, whom Luke mentions, as beginning in A.D. 6, too late for the birth of Christ.
In every case, however, archaeological discoveries proved the critics to be wrong. In the case of Quirinius, it was found that he had actually served two separate terms as governor, the first beginning around 7 B.C., which fits perfectly with the time of Christ's birth. F. F. Bruce, one of the most respected of New Testament scholars, noted that where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy by modern critics, archaeology has again and again proved Luke to be right and the critics wrong.
Archaeology has, indeed, affirmed the Biblical record, including Luke's account of the birth of Christ. As William F. Albright, the renowned archaeologist and late professor of Semitic languages at John Hopkins University, wrote, "Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and brought increased recognition to the Bible as a source of history."
The evidence begs the question that if Luke was this careful to get his facts right about names, places, events and dates, can we not be confident that he was just as careful to get his facts right concerning the more important things about which he reported, such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?
3. An agnostic professor of mythology is convinced
C. S. Lewis was the agnostic professor of Renaissance literature at Oxford University, a prolific author and a recognized expert of mythological texts. He too had bought into the idea that the Bible was not a book of reliable history and that the New Testament was filled with all sorts of mythical stories, created by individuals far removed from the events described.
But through the influence of his childhood and friends who challenged his atheism, Lewis began to read the Bible. He was astounded at what he encountered in the Gospels, for it was obviously a different genre from the ancient mythologies with which he was so familiar. His surprised response was, "This is not myth!" Lewis went on to become a dedicated follower of Christ and perhaps the most significant Christian apologist of the 20th century.
At the time, higher criticism was being popularized in German seminaries. Certain theologians, such as Rudolph Bultmann, were claiming that the New Testament accounts of the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles and His resurrection were myths created by His followers.
Lewis challenged these theologians, saying, "I would like to know how many myths these people have read!" He went on to explain that he had been a long-time professor and critic of mythological literature and knew how a myth sounded and felt. "And the gospel story," he said, "is not myth!"
Lewis challenged these theologians, saying, "I would like to know how many myths these people have read!" He went on to explain that he had been a long-time professor and critic of mythological literature and knew how a myth sounded and felt. "And the gospel story," he said, "is not myth!"
4. Predicted centuries in advance by OT prophets
Genesis 3:15 reads, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.
These words were spoken by God to the serpent after the fall of our first parents. The "seed of the woman" in this passage is an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who will defeat the serpent and reverse the curse brought on by his deception.
The Bible normally speaks of the seed of men, but in this case it is the "seed of the woman." This is a prophecy that clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ—a birth in which the seed of a man is not involved. The beloved Methodist theologian, Adam Clarke, wrote in The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments with a Commentary and Critical Notes, "The seed of the woman is to come by the woman, and her alone without the concurrence of man."
According to this prophecy, the "seed of the woman" will receive a temporary wound from Satan—"you will bruise His heel"—but the "seed of woman" shall inflict on Satan a final and mortal wound—"He will bruise your head." This Messianic promise was fulfilled through the virgin birth of Jesus and through His death and resurrection.
Isaiah 7:14 says, Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. The Hebrew word translated "virgin" in this passage is almah and refers to a young woman of marriageable age, but would normally include the idea of virginity, since that was expected of a young Jewish woman being married for the first time.
That "virgin" is an accurate English translation is confirmed by the Septuagint, which uses the Greek word parthinos to translate almah. Parthinos specifically means a young woman who has never had sex with a man. Parthinos is the word used by both Matthew and Luke in their description of Mary, affirming that she was a young woman who had never had sex with a man when Jesus was born.
Further evidence that Isaiah 7:14 is a Messianic prophecy referring to Jesus Christ is indicated by Isaiah's statement that he shall be called Immanuel, which means "God with us." This is a clear statement concerning the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, and reminds us of the words of Gabriel to Mary that the Son she will bear, will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:32).
5. Believed universally by the earliest Christians
That the virgin birth was universally believed by the earliest Christians is verified by "The Apostle's Creed," an early confession of faith that dates from the second century and was used throughout the church. By including the virgin birth in their creedal statement, these early believers made clear that they considered it an essential doctrine of the Faith. The Creed reads in part:
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary" (emphasis added).
This belief in the virgin birth was confirmed by the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325 and has continued to be the belief of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians.
Note the words of the 18th century hymn, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," written by Charles Wesley, an Oxford graduate and Anglican minister, and with his brother John, the leader of the great Methodist revival. Because of the references to the virgin birth, this hymn became a popular carol sung at Christmas:
Christ by highest heav'n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come, offspring of a Virgin's womb!
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emanuel!
Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!
With such overwhelming evidence for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, it raises the question as to why there remains so much skepticism about this event and other miracles recorded in the New Testament. This question was answered in The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Yale archaeologist and professor Millard Burrows, who said, "The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural."
In other words, the barrier to faith is not an intellectual one, but a heart that is committed to unbelief. Believing in Christ does not require a so-called "blind leap of faith." Any honest seeker who will lay aside their biased presuppositions and consider the historical evidence will also experience the affirming witness of the Holy Spirit in their heart and will know that Jesus was truly born of a virgin. And if that part of the story is true, then we can have confidence that the rest of the story is true as well.
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, and Biblical scholar with a vision for Spiritual awakening in America and throughout the earth. His books are available from Amazon and you can read about his vision for America at www.eddiehyatt.com.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
“Monday, the 25th day, we went on shore, some to fell timber, some to saw, some to split, some to carry, so no man rested all that day. But towards night we came on board again. That night we had a sore storm of wind and rain.”
The above is from the journal of one of the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower who recorded their activities for December 25, 1620, their first Christmas in America. There is no mention of Christmas because the Pilgrims, you see, did not celebrate Christmas. They considered it a pagan holiday instituted by the Roman Catholic Church and carried on by the Church of England from which they had separated.
I do not agree with the Pilgrims rejection of Christmas, but I do respect and admire their conviction. You and I would not be enjoying the blessings of freedom and prosperity we have known if it had not been for people like them—people of conviction—who were willing to suffer loss rather than compromise their convictions.
They were willing to be ostracized, harassed and imprisoned in England because of their conviction that Jesus (not the king or the pope) is the Head of the Church and that the Bible (not church tradition) is our primary guide.
These convictions eventually led them to leave home, family and friends and begin a new life in a New World. They were people of conviction and we have been incredibly blessed because of their faith and because they were true to their convictions.
I admire the Pilgrims, not because I agree with them on every point, but because they were people of faith, principle, and conviction. The early American historian, Dr. Samuel Morrison said, “They were equal to any standard of excellence known to history. Their range was narrow, but in it they were supreme.”
The Need for Conviction in the Church Today
It has been said that, “Those who do not stand for something, will fall for anything.” In other words, unless, like the Pilgrims, we have a core set of convictions for which we are willing to die, we are susceptible to being led astray by whatever is popular and convenient at a given time.
This is happening today in regards to issues concerning marriage, life, and even the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. I recently heard a well-known evangelical pastor asked by Oprah Winfrey if Jesus is the only way to God. I was shocked when, instead of giving a clear and direct answer, he danced in circles as though not to offend this entertainment icon who has made known her belief that there are many ways to God.
People of Conviction Shape History
We may not agree with Pilgrims stance on Christmas, but we can certainly follow their example of remaining true to one’s convictions even when it is not the most popular thing to do. By remaining true to their convictions, they played a major role in giving birth to the United States of America.
Speaking of the fruit that came from the Pilgrims and their commitment to follow their convictions, the historian, Benjamin Hart, says,
What Abraham Lincoln described as government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” was inherited from a tradition beginning with the Congregationalist Protestant settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the 1620s (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 38).
By the way, the Pilgrims did not have the rich Christmas hymnody that is at our disposal today. They lived before “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World,” “Noel,” and so many others.
As I recently listened to one of these carols that celebrates the coming of Christ, I thought how the Pilgrims probably would have celebrated Christmas if they had known such Christ-honoring Christmas hymns. After all, they had left everything because of their conviction that God had come to save this world in the person of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is a Great Opportunity to Share Our Conviction
If we are convinced that Jesus Christ is the only, unique Son of God who has provided salvation for all people, then we should take advantage of this Christmas holiday to make Him known throughout the land.
It doesn’t really matter that December 25 is not the actual day of Christ’s birth. It doesn’t really matter that Constantine “Christianized” a pagan holiday, just like it does not really matter that the former owner of my Gibson guitar may have used it to play ungodly music in ungodly places.
We as Christians should seize the moment and confront the world with the true meaning of Christmas--that God came to this world in the person of Jesus Christ and confronted this world with His love and a call to repentance.
Paul expressed this to the intellectual elite of Athens when he recounted to them their various misconceptions of God and then declared;
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
So, this Christmas let’s forget about political correctness. Let’s forget about Holiday Trees and Happy Holiday greetings. Let’s be people of conviction and let the world know the true meaning of Christmas.
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, and Biblical scholar. His latest book, Pilgrims and Patriots, documents the unique Christian origins of the United States of America and is available from Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.