Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Books of the Bible

To begin a research of the canonical books, let’s first define the word canon in terms of our topic, thus setting the foundation of which to build our findings.

Canon – (lit. measuring reed). – The standard that determines the books of Scripture, i.e. the books that were inspired, gave evidence of containing revelation, gave evidence of apostolicity, and were uniquely used by the Holy Spirit where placed in the canon.1  Based on this definition we will look at the when, where, why and how these books came to be the canon, but the Bible itself.

One must go back to the late second century to a man named Irenaeus to trace the root of what is known as the canonical books.  Irenaeus was a Christian from Anatolia who moved to Lyons in what is now France.  He had encountered a group, or a belief known as Gnosticism of which he felt were way out of line with what the Christian belief was all about.  From this he made a point to begin to clarify the Christian doctrine.  One must understand the time frame in which all these particular beliefs were coming together, yet growing ore bizarre through every group and region.  Irenaeus believed and made a point of trying to prove that Christianity descended from it’s Jewish past and he was determined to put it all together.

Another individual, Tertullian, of which lived a few years later, continued with much of the same argument as Irenaeus that the Christian faith originated with Jesus.

Both men believed the doctrine of Christianity was and is directly related to the apostles and should not be altered in anyway and that all Christians should practice in accordance with these writings.  These writings, bringing us back to our definition, were sometimes

1  Elmer Towns, Theology for Today, 2002.

Jonathan Hill, Handbook to the History of Christianity, 2006.

known as the “rule of faith” or the “canon” (a Greek word meaning “measuring stick”).3

While these two men were making the case of the apostolic books another man, Justin Martyr, wrote the Christians regularly read the same writings during gatherings this giving us both the Jewish scriptures and the canon.  Martyr and Clement of Alexandria were the first to talk about a new testament.4

All of this begins a period of books and discussions of what eventually would make up the twenty books of the New Testament and the thirty nine books of the old Testament.5

                Let’s now look ahead to approximately the fourth century when the New Testament as we know it was first generally agreed upon.6

                The twenty seven book of the New Testament was first given by the Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, in a letter to his flock of A.D. 367.7

This list of books did not become official until A.D. 393 by the Hippo council and A.D. 397 by the council at Carthage.  Obviously from here it becomes a lot more in depth and possibly confusing to some, however for our purposes let’s move on with the understanding of how and when the New Testament canon became official as stated above.

With this established I will touch briefly on the Old Testament, of which has it’s own controversies such as the differences in the Christian Old Testament ending with Malachi and the Hebrew Bible at 2 Chronicles 36:23. One cannot touch on this portion

Jonathan Hill, Handbook to the History of Christianity, 2006.

Ibid.

www.carm.org/questions/canon.htm.

6  Jonathan Hill, Handbook to the History of Christianity, 2006.

Ibid.

Ibid.

of history without mentioning Origen, the most important theologian of the third century.  He believed both the Old and New Testament along with progress in the Christian life was directly related to progress in the Christian life was directly related to progress in reading and understanding scripture.9

Before moving forward, let’s quickly look back at the early church history of how the canon of today began as writings even prior to the fourth century.  We have established the definition of the canon.  The men in the spotlight of bringing the books together to include Irenaeus to the Bishop of Alexandria, and made a brief mention of the Old Testament including at least on differences of the books contained therein.

The Bible is the Word of God (divine authorship), but at the same time the writings of human authors.10   So let’s now look at the basis for including a book in scripture:

  1. It must be prophetic (written by a prophet),
  2. It must be authoritative (claims to be God’s message….”thus saith the Lord”),
  3. It must be authentic (written by the person who claimed to be its author),
  4. It had life-transforming power,
  5. It was widely recognized as the Word of God,
  6. It was reliable (the contents were consistent with the rest of scripture, the data                  were accurate, and there were no inconsistencies in the book).11

By sharing the basis of including a book in scripture we must keep in mind that although the New Testament was decreed official by the two councils as we previously discussed

9  Jonathan Hill, Handbook to the History of Christianity, 2006.

10  J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 2001.

11  Elmer Towns, Theology for Today, 2002.

the canonical books of the Bible were not.  The church or any council did not make the

books authoritative but Christians recognized the books to be of God and the church then recognized their books as scripture.12

Of course over time people wanted to make copies of the original documents of scripture (the originals are referred to as the autographs).13   Today, we have over five thousand manuscripts (handwritten copies) of all or parts of the New Testament.  Then is 1947 Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament books were discovered in the caves of Qumean, near the Dead Sea.  The Dead Sea Scrolls as they are called contain a portion of almost every book of the Old Testament.14 

                This overview of the canon, or the canonical books of the Bible is obviously just that, an overview.  We could dive in so much deeper and progress all the way through to the now different versions of the Bible.  What I would like to do though is to end with a look at the Christian Canon of today, as different religions have different canons.

The Bible – 66 books consisting of 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.  The Old Testament contains five books called the Pentateuch, 12 Historical, 5 Poetical and 17 Prophetical.  While the New Testament contains 5 Historical, 13 Pauline epistles and 9 Non-Pauline Epistles.15 

                Lewis S. Chafer says, ….”the same inherent divine character which inspiration secures had made these particularized books the Word of God in distinction from all other human writings.” 16

 

12  Elmer Towns, Theology for Today, 2002.

13  J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 2001.

14  Ibid.

15  www.carm.org/questions/canon.htm.

16  Elmer Towns, Theology for Today, 2002.

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Defending the Resurrection

“In Christian apologetics, no historical argument surpasses the resurrection of Jesus for its sheer evidential force.”1 Regardless of such strong evidence there have been, and possibly always will be, objections as to whether or not Jesus physically rose from the dead.  There are books both objecting to, and supporting the arguments surrounding the resurrection of Christ.  However, the purpose of this paper is not to address the objections, but to provide evidence that Christ, in fact, rose from the dead.  The approach presented here will consist of four facts accepted by most scholars, both conservative and skeptical alike, while the fifth that “enjoys acceptance by an impressive majority of scholars, though not by nearly all.”2 They are:
1. “Jesus died by crucifixion
2. Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them
3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed
4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed
5. The tomb was empty”3
Jesus Died by Crucifixion
To many this may appear as a given, that Jesus died from crucifixion, but in reality it is crucial in building the foundation for our argument.  Basically stating; that if Jesus didn’t actually die, then there is no argument to be discussed.
1. Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008
2.  Habermas, Gary, Licona, M., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel Publications Grand Rapids MI. 2004
3. Ibid

In claiming Christ died of crucifixion, it must first be established what exactly crucifixion actually is.  The point of this brief overview, or definition, would simply be to solidify our argument since no objections are being presented against it for our purpose here.
“The Greek word for “cross,” stauros, literally refers to an upright, pointed stake or pale.  The word xylon is usually “wood” or “tree”.  In the New Testament and in some other literature of the time both frequently refer to a particularly cruel and degrading form of capital punishment known as crucifixion.”4 Typically, victims of crucifixion were beaten prior to being crucified and then affixed to the wood either by rope or nails being tied or pierced through the wrists and feet.  “Death usually came slowly; it was not unusual for persons to survive for days on the cross.  Exposure, disease, hunger, shock, and exhaustion were the usual immediate causes of death.”5 However, in the case of Jesus, “the majority opinion is that he died by asphyxiation, or from the lack of oxygen.”6 This being prior to the Roman soldier stabbing Him in the side to verify Jesus being dead, thus not breaking his legs as was common to speed up the process of death.  “In the article “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” the Journal of the American Medical Society concluded:
4.  Elwell, Walter A., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Ed.  Baker Book House Grand Rapids MI. 2001
5.  Ibid
6. Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008

“Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to His side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between His right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death.  Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”  (March 21, 1986, p. 1463)”7
All four gospels in the Bible, Matthew (27:35), Mark (15:24), Luke (23:33) and John (19:18) provide an account of Jesus being killed by crucifixion.  However, when presenting a defense, or argument, for the first of the five facts being discussed, one must go outside of the Bible in order to solidify the evidence.
“Jesus’ execution is also reported by a number of ancient non-Christian sources.  Josephus (late first century), Tacitus (early second century), Lucian (mid-second century), and Mara bar Serapion (second or third century) all reported the event.”8
Jesus’ Disciples Believed that He Rose and Appeared to Them
As with the crucifixion, all four gospels record the disciples making claims concerning Jesus. Only this time it was their belief that Jesus had risen and had appeared to them.  Yet, when presenting the facts of the resurrection, one must clarify why to accept eyewitness testimony from a source that would appear favorable of the facts, (the Bible).

7.  Geisler, Norman L., When Skeptics Ask, Baker Books Grand Rapids MI. 1990
8. Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008

“This conclusion can be reached from nine early and independent sources that fall into three categories:
1. The testimony of Paul about the disciples
2. The oral tradition that passed through the early church
3. The written works of the early church”9
When faced with using the New Testament, part of our argument for the resurrection, one only must explain its acceptance as ancient literature as we would consider any other ancient text.  This is not necessarily overcoming an objection but simply explaining the argument as with the crucifixion.  So without going in to the nine sources mentioned previously, the three categories is a direct and simplistic way of presenting the initial evidence concerning the disciples believing that Jesus rose and appeared to them.
“First, we have Paul who claims to have known and fellowshipped with the disciples firsthand.  He says that they said it.  Second, we know of some very early oral tradition that was circulating within the church before the New Testament was even written and points to the disciples saying it.  Third, we have written tradition that portrays or assumes the disciples saying that Jesus had appeared to them after he rose from the dead.”10 These three main points cover the nine sources in a broad overview, yet if needed the nine are there.  Typically, a basic approach with direct and to the point answers will suffice for this type of argument, but that does not mean one does not need to know the details, or to graciously back out of a conversation if they do not know, until further time that the details can be presented.
9. Habermas, Gary, Licona, M., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel Publications Grand Rapids MI. 2004
10. Ibid
However, to this writer the most compelling evidence concerning the disciples has yet to be presented.  And yet again, it would seem so simplistic, but yet many appear afraid to have these type discussions.
“People will die for something they believe to be true, but people do not die for something they believe to be a lie,” according to Dr. Frank Turek in his promotional video for I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.  What does this have to do with the disciples believing that Jesus rose and appeared to them?  Consider the night before Jesus was actually crucified and was arrested, where were His followers?  We know Peter denied Him three times, and the others seem to have scattered throughout the area out of fear.  Now consider how miraculously brave they suddenly became after He rose and appeared to them.  This is exactly what Dr. Turek is referring when he makes the statement concerning people not dying for a lie.  The disciples were so afraid the night of Jesus’ arrest for their own lives and safety that they abandon Him, denied Him, and hid as not to be arrested for being an associate of His.  “In all, at least seven early sources testify that the original disciples willingly suffered in defense of their beliefs.  If we include the sufferings and martyrdoms of Paul and James the brother of Jesus, we have eleven sources.  These facts are validated by multiple accounts, both from early sources in the New Testament as well as outside of it.”11 And besides, “liars make poor martyrs”.12 Of course, as discussed previously, the skeptic may accept or deny this type of claim based on many objections that they themselves may present.
11.  Habermas, Gary, Licona, M., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel Publications Grand Rapids MI. 2004
12. Ibid

Keep in mind this is the basic facts for the resurrection of Christ.  There are nine, at a minimum, independent sources not mentioned here to solidify this piece of the argument, and basic answers to most questions the skeptic may pose.  However, it would seem sufficient for our purposes that the three categories and the fact of the disciples going from cowards to extremely brave men would be enough for an opening presentation, or defense, of the resurrection.
The Church Persecutor Paul was Changed
We have shown that Jesus died by crucifixion and that the disciples believed He rose and appeared to them.  We will now turn our attention to the three remaining facts to confirm the disciples’ beliefs, and solidify our argument that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.
“Recent scholars agree, for a variety of reasons, that Paul is the most reliable witness to Jesus’ resurrection appearances.”13
“Saul of Tarsus, better known by history as the apostle Paul, changed from being a skeptic who believed that it was God’s will to persecute the church to becoming one of its most influential messengers.”  These two statements provide for the reader a foundation of our defense of the resurrection in connection with one of the most powerful pieces of evidence. It has been shown, as stated above, the disciples believed, and now we are presented with another eyewitness that had no reason to promote such a belief, and as a matter of fact was en route to
13.  Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008
kill Christians when he witnessed the risen Christ. (Acts 9:1-19)  Thus it is here that we will unfold possibly the strongest eyewitness to our defense.
Like the disciples, Paul’s belief was so strong that he was willing to suffer and die a martyr’s death for the sake of the gospel, while obviously convinced by his belief of his own experience with the risen Jesus.
“In recent New Testament research, few conclusions are more widely recognized by scholars than that the text in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 significantly predates Paul.”14 It is here one is presented with Paul’s personal experience, and not only that but many had witnessed the risen Jesus.  This, coming from a man that killed Christians, but is now proclaiming evidence, that he himself had verified to be true from experience and the apostles themselves.  Paul describes his trip to Jerusalem and how he had spent time with Peter and James, the brother of Jesus gathering information.  This would have to be very early, as many believe his trip took place around A.D. 35.  Comparatively speaking to other historical documents, nothing dates this closely to an actual event thus making one of our best eyewitness accounts extremely reliable.  Paul was so determined to gather the truth that he made yet another trip to Jerusalem, this time meeting with not only Peter and James, but with John also.  “This point is well documented, reported by Paul himself, as well as Luke, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Dionysiuss of Corinth, and Origen.”15
14.  Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008
15. Ibid
As with all of the facts thus far presented, and the others to be presented, there will always be objections.  In fact many may or may not believe the resurrection accounts based on a variety of reasons.  However, the fact of Paul behind such a key eyewitness is not so much that he was converted and believed, it is why he believed what he did.  You see, many people believe things for different reasons, typically from something they have read or have been told by others.  In the case of Paul, he had firsthand experience.  Meaning, not only did he verify his belief with others, (secondary information), he experienced is belief first hand, (primary information).  For Paul, it was not just a blind faith, but a belief in both primary and secondary information.  “We have said enough to round off our treatment of Paul with the clear understanding that he believed he had seen the risen Jesus in person, and that his understanding of who Jesus was included the firm belief that he possessed a transformed but still physical body.”16
The Skeptic James, the Brother of Jesus, was Suddenly Changed
Though we do not have as much information on James as we do Paul, he is still crucial for the evidence presented, and yet another eyewitness.  The same arguments can be used concerning James as far as his belief that he actually saw a risen Jesus and that he was willing to die for such belief as with Paul and the others.  “James’s martyrdom is attested by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria.  We no longer have any of the works of Hegesippus or the writings of Clement where the event is mentioned.
16.  Wright, N. T., The Resurrection of the Son of God, Fortress Press Minneapolis MN. 2003

However, sections have been preserved by Eusebius.  Therefore, his martyrdom is attested by both Christian and non Christian sources.”17 This particular fact as mentioned earlier is an indication of why we consider him a valid source of information.  “In 2002, what was thought to be a significant archaeological discovery was made.  An ancient ossuary or bone box dating to the first century was found with the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”  While controversy continues regarding the authenticity of the inscription, the fact that such a find enthralled the religious world shows the historical importance attached to James, the brother of Jesus.”18
We turn to Mark 3:21-35 for our look at James prior to his conversion.  It is here that he, along with the rest of Jesus’ family was at least skeptical, if not unbelievers, in Jesus and His ministry.  Could one possibly imagine, as with Paul, someone going from unbeliever, to believer?  Of course that is possible, but yet again we see that it was not based on secondary information concerning James, but as with Paul, firsthand experience.  In fact, “critical scholars almost always hold that James, the brother of Jesus, was a skeptical unbeliever during the time of Jesus’ ministry”19 citing the aforementioned verse of scripture.
So where does James, the brother of Jesus, and his eyewitness testimony appear; 1 Corinthians 15:7 in Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth.  Here, and only here, is where we find a resurrection appearance to James, thus leading to his conversion.
17.  Habermas, Gary, Licona, M., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel Publications Grand Rapids MI. 2004
18. Ibid
19. Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008

This may not seem as though it would bear much credit to James, the brother of Jesus, as a eyewitness, yet according to critical scholar Reginald Fuller “we should have to invent” such an appearance in order to account for two things; James’s conversion from skepticism and his elevation to the pastorate of the church in Jerusalem, the center of ancient Christianity.”20 In fact “most scholars think this was the reason James became a believer.”21
As with Paul, James, the brother of Jesus, provides solid evidence of someone being converted to Christianity after what they believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.  And, once again, we are presenting eyewitness testimony, accepted by most scholars, to the fact that Jesus indeed rise from the dead and appeared physically to believers and non believers alike.
It would seem if one were to present this case in a court of law, and stop at this point, that the evidence provided would give a jury reasonable doubt allowing for the acceptance that Christ, in fact,  rose from the dead.  However, outside of the eyewitness accounts, the most compelling evidence has yet to be presented; the evidence that could have stopped Christianity in its tracks, if only…for the empty tomb.
The Tomb was Empty
All of the evidence presented up to this point is accepted by most scholars.  It is here we must concede that not as many scholars accept the empty tomb as evidence for Christ rising from the dead.
20.  Habermas, Gary, Licona, M., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel Publications Grand Rapids MI. 2004
21. Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008

However, to this writer it is possibly the strongest evidence, and in fact is accepted by “an impressive majority of critical scholars.  Gary Habermas discovered that roughly 75 percent of scholars on the subject accept the empty tomb as a historical fact.”22
It would seem the empty tomb would be one of, if not the strongest pieces of evidence for the resurrection of Christ.  Simply put, or at least to the common individual, a body would have been all that was needed to discount every eyewitness, regardless of a particular tomb being empty.  However, there are many objections and theories as to the tomb.  The point in this section of our five facts will be to give solid evidence supporting the empty tomb without addressing the objections and theories.
The first point concerning the empty tomb reverts back to our initial claims concerning the crucifixion and disciples; the empty tomb is presented in all four gospel accounts.  More significant than it being in each gospel is how it is presented; by women.  “This was an embarrassing situation because in ancient culture, female testimony in crucial matters was widely dismissed.  Due to this attitude, the unanimity regarding the women’s testimonies hardly qualifies as an early Christian invention.”23 For the skeptic not understanding ancient history this may seem as a futile attempt, or grasping for solid evidence, when in reality it is certainly one of the strongest points indicating the tomb was actually empty.  The obvious question would have to be if the disciples or anyone else were trying to fabricate a story, then why include such an embarrassing story of women being the first to discover the empty tomb.
22.  Habermas, Gary, Licona, M., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel Publications Grand Rapids MI. 2004
23. Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008

Second, why would, of all places, did the apostles make such a claim, (Jerusalem), of the empty tomb, if in fact it was not empty.  It would be common knowledge of a tomb being empty, especially of such a well known event as the crucifixion that it could have been easily verified by most anyone.  This leads back to this writer’s previous statement concerning producing a body, thus stopping Christianity instantly.  Yet, based on the evidence it would seem there was no body to produce, and the tomb was indeed empty.
“Further, the empty tomb is confirmed by multiple accounts, a very important test for historical truth.”24 “The empty tomb is, therefore, well evidenced for historical certainty.  Former Oxford University church historian William Wand writes, “All the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor of (the empty tomb), and those scholars who reject it ought to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.”25
Conclusion
The purpose of this paper has been to provide evidence that Christ, in fact, rose from the dead using five facts:
1. “Jesus died by crucifixion
2.  Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them
3.  The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed
24.  Habermas, Gary, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 2008
25.  Habermas, Gary, Licona, M., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel Publications Grand Rapids MI. 2004

4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed
5. The tomb was empty”26
Each of these facts has been presented, along with evidence supporting them.  Though objections do indeed exist, the point has been well established, along with the evidence that Christ, in fact, rose from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:14 “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Apostle Paul

It’s a Miracle!

“Belief in miracles lies at the heart of authentic Christian faith.  Without the miracle of the first Easter, Christianity would no doubt long since have passed from the scene, and would certainly not be around to offend the “modern” man. (Elwell 778).  It is obvious throughout history miracles have not been accepted by many, regardless of their beliefs.  Jesus spent the last three years of His life performing miracles and signs, to only be asked for more, and ultimately killed.  The fact of His death is the basis for one of, if not the, greatest miracles of all time.  It is for this reason facts will be presented as evidence miracles do exist, whether understood or not, and arguments that the resurrection did in fact take place, providing the only conclusion that miracles do happen, and are not impossible.
There are many theories concerning the resurrection of Jesus.  Many, of which will be discussed briefly, deny the resurrection.  However, there is more compelling evidence that He did actually rise from the grave and this will be the main focus here.
Some of the claims denying the resurrection include Joseph of Arimathea taking the body, Roman or Jewish authorities taking the body, the disciples stealing the body, and the women going to the wrong tomb.  We will touch on each of these beginning with Joseph of Arimathea, and proceeding in order of their listing above.
The main problem with Joseph of Arimathea theory would be why?  Why would he take, when would he have had the opportunity and where would he have put it.  Joseph was a follower of Christ and in fact, offered his tomb for the burial of Jesus.  Besides, he was a devout Jew and would not have broken the Sabbath.  As for the Roman or Jewish authorities taking the body, this theory in reality doesn’t’t even make sense.  Typically, common sense would provide the evidence of why this particular theory doers’t make sense.  That being, the only thing required of them to stop Christianity before it really got started would to have been to produce a body, they possibly could have gotten away with any body, but yet, they did not, or could not.  The disciples stealing the body would appear almost as easily thought of simplistic as the Romans or Jewish authorities taking the body.  The main reason for this would be they were all scared when Jesus was arrested, but yet according to this theory, they became brave, not just courageous, but to the point of death brave, when in fact, if they had taken the body any one of them could have, at any time, and to save their own life, admitted they had stolen it, thus providing solid evidence of something they would have known already to be false.  Finally, some suggest the women went to the wrong tomb.  This could possibly be the easiest of the theories presented to defend.  All anyone would have had to do was go to the correct tomb.  There are other facts, but it would seem that would be enough for the purpose of this particular discussion.
The best answer for miracles and the resurrection, the greatest miracle of all time, can be explained with almost non-refutable evidence, and the majority being accepted by both Christian and secular scholars alike.
“In recent New Testament research, few conclusions are more widely recognized by scholars than that the text in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 significantly predates Paul.” (Habermas 135, Hindson and Caner Ed.)  The strength of this particular scripture is the acceptance by most scholars, and that it predates Paul by almost three years.  This is important because of the fact Paul would not have known about the resurrection, it was only three years after his own conversion, and many feel that these are not even Paul’s words, solidifying the significance of this passage.  Secondly, concerning Paul, recent scholars agree that Paul s one of, if not the most reliable eyewitness of Jesus’ resurrection appearances.    Paul, being raised a Jew and a scholar himself, was a killer of Christian’s, confirming that his eyewitness account is extremely compelling.  To confirm the truth of his testimony Paul actually went to Jerusalem and met with Peter, James and John, yet again confirming the reality of the resurrection account.  Four eyewitness accounts, and one being James, the brother of Jesus, being a unbeliever prior to his witnessing his brother risen from the grave give significantly more solid evidence of the miracle taking place than an of the other theories considered.  However, there is still more!  The disciples being afraid at the time of Jesus’ arrest and then becoming convinced to the point of death, the early dating n the Book of Acts, gives credit too, and possibly the most convincing would be that of the empty tomb.
There are other reasons to confirm this particular miracle, (the resurrection), such as the women’s testimony, but do not contend any would be needed based on the evidence and argument presented.
Miracles are not impossible, as it has been shown with overwhelming evidence the miracle of the resurrection is the most reasonable reason to believe, and if accepted, then, in fact, miracles are possible.

How to answer the resurrection objection

Typically one would, or should, begin a conversation with someone by asking questions to clarify their position such as “what do you mean by that” or something similar to establish each of the participants understanding of exactly what is meant by such statements.  Though this particular question would appear straight forward, the meanings and circumstances in which the conversation is taking place many times lead to confusion, or the answering of a question that was not actually being asked.  However, for the purpose of this summary, it will be assumed the question is exactly as it appears.  Therefore, the purpose of this paper will be to present a response, using the approach of Dr. Gary Habermas, and presenting the “minimal facts” argument.
Many feel it is best when talking to an atheist, agnostic, or other non follower of Christ, to give their testimony of what God has done in their life.  Others rely simply on the Bible to substantiate their claim, or belief that Jesus raised from the dead.  While this has been taught to be the best approach to answering skeptics questions, the minimal facts approach provide solid historical evidence that most scholars, even the most liberal ones, except as truth.  Being a former agnostic myself, I didn’t’t accept such answers as faith, or a testimony of someone professing that a man actually rose from the grave.  In fact, such bold claims are what eventually drove me to further my education, and find answers for myself, and now share them with a branch of theology known as apologetics.  Apologetics is a term used from the Greek word, apologia, simply meaning to give a reason, or defense.  Thus, the minimal facts I would like to share are simply that; the reasons I believe Jesus rose from the dead.  Please understand there are many objections, all of which can be answered both logically and intellectually, yet are outside the scope of this particular summary.  Therefore, the facts, on why I believe Jesus rose from the dead will only be presented here.
First of all, Jesus is a historical figure that was killed by crucifixion.  Though there are objections to this basic statement, as I mentioned previously, it is still accepted that He was actually dead, and died prior to His stabbing by the Roman soldier, from crucifixion, which leads to a long suffering death of asphyxiation.  This may not seem to be one of the more important reasons for my belief, but again, my purpose is to establish a common ground for understanding the evidence of my belief.
Secondly, the disciples believed they had actually seen the risen Jesus.  This, along with the next two facts that solidify my position, would be similar to a court of law today.  Eyewitness testimony is typically accepted as some of the most compelling when presented in a court of law.  These particular eyewitness accounts are extremely important in that these same individuals were afraid for their own lives when Jesus was arrested, but yet became convinced enough of their actually seeing the risen Jesus, that they were willing to die for their belief.
At this point I would make sure the atheist, agnostic, or non follower and myself were still following the same thought process, and remaining on the original question concerning the risen Jesus.  Many times it is easy to be diverted to other questions and objections while presenting evidence of the original question.  I would attempt to also answer any questions concerning my first two reasons for my belief.
Assuming we are still in line with the original question, I would now present my two key witnesses.
Paul, known as Saul, prior to his personal experience of witnessing Jesus raised from the dead is one of, if not the, strongest eyewitness account.  One must consider that prior to becoming a believer, Paul actually killed Christians, and not only was he convinced that he had seen the risen Jesus, but did his own extensive investigation into the claims.  He states numerous times of his trips to hear the eyewitness accounts, along with his own, in leading to his commitment, until his own death, that Jesus, in fact, rose from the dead.  Not was Paul converted, his writings date, according to the source, to AD 35, a time within two years of the actual event.
I will give one last eyewitness, and then the final, and possibly strongest, evidence of why I believe Jesus rose from the dead.  James, Jesus own brother, did not believe until after he too, saw Jesus after His death.  Consider the impact of a family member not believing, and then suddenly going from skeptic to once again dying for what he believed.
So far I have given four of the five minimal facts, all of which are accepted by most scholars, and at this point would like to give you what I feel is the strongest evidence of why I, or anyone should believe, Jesus actually did raise from the dead.  However, let me also say this particular fact, though still accepted, has been denied by some of the more liberal scholars.
The empty tomb!  This particular piece of evidence could have so easily been proven false, yet remains the most solid evidence of all.  It would have been common knowledge where Jesus was buried, and there obviously are many scenarios of what could have taken place, yet it remains, the tomb was empty and there is no other acceptable explanation, based on evidence, of anything but Jesus rose from the dead!
There is much more that could be discussed on this particular subject.  However, based on the evidence presented, five minimal facts, I believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.
As stated in my opening paragraphs, this paper is simply a summary of why I believe Jesus rose from the dead.  There is so much more evidence, and compelling reasons, to believe this historic event took place, that it would almost seem unjust to stop here.  However, our objective has been met, and a summary presented, in how I would answer “How do you know Jesus rose from the dead?”

The Dead Sea Scrolls

There have been many discoveries throughout history both archaeological and otherwise.  “Among the most important apologetic witnesses to the textual transmission of the Old Testament and the integrity of the Gospels are the Dead Sea Scrolls.”1 This designation, Dead Sea Scrolls, has been given to manuscripts discovered in and around the area of the Dead Sea since 1947.  The Scrolls were such an amazing discovery, in that they were in excellent condition, and had remained hidden for so long (over 2000 years).  The purpose of this paper is to present the facts, history and apologetical uses of such an important artifact as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Simply the Facts

     The Dead Sea Scrolls, as mentioned previously, are manuscripts discovered around the Dead Sea in 1947.  However, they are much more than that.  As one can see from the following list, there are many facts concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls:

  1. They were found by accident; Bedouin Sheppard’s looking for lost sheep threw a rock into a cave and heard something shatter.
  2. They are written in Hebrew, Aramic and Greek; possibly by the Essenes.
  3. The dates for them are possibly during the Qumran and Early Roman period; 250 B.C. to A.D. 70.
  4. They were discovered in eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
  5. Prior to the discovery of the Scrolls some of the earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament were dated around AD 900 to 1000.
  6. Every book in the Old Testament is included, except the Book of Esther.
  7. A commentary, on the Book of Habakkuk, was also found; the earliest existing Biblical commentary.
  8. They provide a basis to compare our other manuscripts from 1000 years before they were written.
  9. The Dead Sea scrolls provide no commentary on the Apocrypha, but do provide commentary on some of the Jewish Old Testament books.

So what does all of this mean?  It could possibly depend on who one would ask.  There are many differing views on the importance of this discovery.

1  Hindson, Ed and Caner, Ergun, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR., 2008

It would seem some feel this is one of the most vital discoveries of all times, while others simply think it is an over exaggerated find of something we already had.  “These scrolls have taught scholars an enormous amount about apocalyptic Judaism in the first century AD, although it is unlikely that anything in them has any direct bearing upon either Jesus or Christianity.”2

Although there could possibly be many more facts than listed here, the point for this discussion has been established well enough to provide a foundational look at the rest of our focus;  beginning with a look into the history of the scrolls, along with the apologetical use in defense of the Word of God, both the Old and New Testament.  First the History…

A Look Back

When it comes to Biblical history, it would appear the burden of proof lies with the Christian side, while in reality, it would seem it should be just the opposite.  This is an entirely different paper and discussion.  So, for the purposes here, we will keep it simple, in that history is simply that, history.  In this section the focus turns to Old Testament manuscripts, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In particular, the historical value of the scrolls, and the impact of the discovery of the scrolls.

Again, the purpose of looking at the history of the Old Testament is to establish a foundation for the significance of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  “The oldest surviving list of the canonical scriptures of the Old Testament comes from about AD 170, the product of a Christian scholar named Melito of Sardis, who made a trip to Palestine to determine both the order and number of books in the Hebrew Bible.  It is important to remember that the Old Testament was more than a thousand years in writing – the oldest parts being written by Moses and the latest after the Babylonian exile.”3 Our Bible today follows the Latin Vulgate, with the content of the Hebrew Bible.  This is the beginning of why the scrolls are of such importance.  Many question the validity of the Bible in and of itself, yet when one simply looks at the history of the Old Testament, we can see why.  First of all most proclaim there is no historical evidence of Moses, and that much of the writings in the Old Testament were borrowed from other historical myths or religions.  This will be discussed more in the apologetic section.

2  Hill, Jonathan, Handbook to the History of Christianity, Lion Publishing Plc., Grand Rapids MI., 2006

3 Elwell, Walter A., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd edition, Baker Book House Company; Grand Rapids MI., 2001

“A helpful way to look at the Old Testament’s textual history is to compare it to other documents of antiquity. For most ancient documents, we have about a thousand year gap between the writing of the document and the first available copy that archaeologists find. For example, with a Roman historian called Tacitus, our first manuscript copy of his work comes from around 1100 A.D. and we have 20 total manuscript copies today. Interestingly, Tacitus actually wrote his works around 100 A.D. Most historians do not doubt that we have a really good idea what Tacitus actually wrote, even though we only have about 20 total partial or complete manuscripts and the earliest manuscript comes about 1,000 years after the original writing.  In comparison, our first manuscript copy of the Old Testament (dates from 250 B.C.) comes about 150 years after the original book was written (i.e. probably Malachi about 400 B.C.). Also, we actually have over 10,000 Old Testament manuscripts.”4 However, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we now have exact copies of very early dated manuscripts containing all of the Books from the Old Testament, except Esther, as mentioned previously.

As for the scrolls, “the most important manuscripts are those found in eleven caves overlooking the Wadi Qumran – apparently the remnants of the library of a religious community which had its headquarters at Khirbet Qumran between ca. 145 B.C. and A.D. 68 (with a break of thirty years ca. 34 – 4 B.C.).”5 In fact, hundreds of both Biblical and non biblical scrolls and fragments have been found, including the Books of Deuteronomy, Psalms and Isaiah.  We list the Book of Isaiah last due to the importance of this particular book.  The first notable point of Isaiah is the dating of the book; that being   1000 years earlier than the earliest of any existing copy.  “Perhaps the most interesting discovery was an almost complete Isaiah scroll. When scholars compared the Isaiah scroll to our earliest copies of Isaiah previous to then (900 to 1000 A.D.), they found that there were only about 13 textual variations. Regarding Isaiah 53, which predicts the suffering and death of Jesus, they only found one variation in the entire chapter that had any possible significance.”6 While we are not arguing the truth or historical value of the Bible one can already begin to see that Christianity is not a blind faith religion, but actual facts, able to provide logic and reason to our faith.  Unfortunately, in today’s politically correct world, even facts are sometimes not accepted as truth.

4 Elwell, Walter A., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd edition, Baker Book House Company; Grand Rapids MI., 2001

5 http://www.carm.org last accessed 05/31/2013

6 Ibid

And to go along with the same thoughts, many, if not most, of professing Christian’s feel that we can lead people to Christ by simply loving them, “like Jesus did”, inviting them to church, or giving our personal testimony.  Please do not hear what I am not stating, all of these things are nice, but the bottom line is we are not prepared to “…give an answer for the hope we have…”.    It is discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls, which confirm the faith we already have.  But again, believers must be taught, or exposed to such information for it to be useful in our everyday lives.

Yes, the scrolls are an amazing discovery, especially for the condition in which they were found, (excellent), and the time in which it took to find them.  But there are always two sides to every story, and this one is no exception.  The actual find was not everything some made it out to be, as far as, what was actually there.  There are not any “lost” books of the Bible, or any other copies or manuscripts that had not already been discovered.  In fact, the significance of the find is the dating, because everything else was mainly copies of the Hebrew Old Testament, of which we already have.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls can also give us confidence in the reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts since there were minimal differences between the manuscripts that had previously been discovered and those that were found in Qumran. Clearly this is a testament to the way God has preserved His Word down through the centuries, protecting it from extinction and guarding it against significant error.”7

The Evidence

Apologetics – From the Greek “apologia” which means to give a reason or defend. Christian apologetics provides a rational defense against various attacks on the historic Christian faith.8  We begin this section with the definition of apologetics to give an understanding of why this writer feels the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is so important.  Thus far we have looked at some facts concerning the scrolls, where, when and other information concerning the scrolls.  We then provided an overview of the history of the scrolls, basically a more in depth look at the facts, concerning different aspects of their authenticity, different books contained within them, and the importance of knowing the information.  In this portion of our discussion we will put it all together and provide practical uses for the information gleaned thus far.

7 http://www.carm.org last accessed 05/31/2013

8 http://www.ratiochristi.org last accessed 05/31/2013

As stated in our definition of apologetics, the Dead Sea Scrolls help provide a reason, or defense of the Christian faith.  Some may ask, “if ones faith is true, then why must it be defended”.  While in a sense the answer to such a question lies within the question itself.  Why would anyone ask if it is true to begin with, and if ask, they are expecting a reason or defense of why we believe what we believe.  The Dead Sea Scrolls help provide such answers.

Much of the information provided can be used in apologetics concerning the Bible, and the Old Testament in particular.  Typically, when involved in these types of conversations, as mentioned earlier on how things should be, the burden of proof lies on the one questioning, or doubting Christianity.  Many times a lot of individuals seem to feel the lack of evidence is the proof, while in reality the absence of evidence is not absence of proof.  With the Dead Sea Scrolls there is no lack of evidence either way, thus we have an entire copy of the Old Testament, yet people still seem to question the validity of claims concerning God, the Bible, etc.

Norman Geisler, in his book, When Skeptics Ask, states, “the Dead Sea Scrolls provide a basis of comparison from 1000 years before our manuscripts were written.  That comparison shows an astounding reliability in transmission of the text.  One scholar observed that the two copies of Isaiah found n the Qumran caves, “proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text.  The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.”9 The reason for such accuracy lies in how serious the Jewish writers took the importance of getting the copies correct.  In fact, traditionally, there was a ceremony each time the word God was written.  They went as far as to make sure of what type of materials were to be used, to how many words and columns were to be on a page.  This type of accuracy provides us with enough confidence that there have been no changes to the Old Testament in the last 2000 years, and if so very little.  “Many critics of the Bible had previously claimed that an incalculable number of mistakes must have entered into the biblical text during this transmission period and that the later form and content of the Bible must have been significantly altered from the time of its original authors.  Taking from their point of comparison the Great Isaiah Scroll (designated IQI saa), a completely intact copy dated 125 B.C., it was found to have 95 percent agreement with the Masoretic Text.  This fact justifies confidence in the Bible’s textual transmission and in the modern translation of the Old Testament that are based upon it.”10 ______________________________________________________________________

9 Geisler, Norman L., When Skeptic Ask, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI., 2008

10 Hindson, Ed and Caner, Ergun, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR., 2008

We have discussed the significance of this particular discovery in regards to the Old Testament.  But what about the New Testament.  While the New Testament has plenty of evidence for itself, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide insight and historical information for it also.

The discovery of the scrolls has given scholars a look at the Jewish people during the time of Jesus, the church, and writing of the New Testament.  The Qumran people, as mentioned earlier and where the scrolls were discovered, kept records of conflicts that helps verify, or matches the writings of the gospel writers.  “These documents also provide previously unknown information about legal practices and social customs only dimly echoed in much later rabbinic writings (Talmud, Mishnah)”11  The scrolls also provided scholars with the original Hebrew and Aramic writings, in which up to this point they only had Greek, Syriac, or Coptic to compare.

The apologetic evidence provided by the scrolls is almost overwhelming.  And in fact, many if not most, do not know the impact of the scrolls on the New Testament, much less on what this writer feels could be the most important information this discovery reveals.  As this discussion has focused on the writings, of the Old and New Testament, the scrolls also provide critical information concerning the entire focus of the Bible: The Messiah.

Critics have made a point of arguing the Messiah was made up “by Christian theologians after the church had left its Jewish roots and come under the influence of the pagan mystery religions of the Greco – Roman world.”12   Yet, when the scrolls were discovered, it became apparent that the concept of a Messiah was indeed an expectation of Jewish theology.  There are actually four significant texts from the scrolls which are messianic in context.  Each of these present how Jesus was indeed connected to the Judaism of His time.  It also demonstrated that Christian words such as “predestination”, “justification”, and “original sin” represented a Jewish concept as well.  By far the highlight connecting the Old Testament with the New through the scrolls would be the crucifixion of Jesus.  The crucifixion has been criticized as a mistake in the gospels because the Jews would never kill someone in this horrific manner.  When n fact, “the Temple Scroll, a sectarian document that treats the subject of building a future temple, contains a section of Deuteronomy 21:22-23, in which the punishment of hanging a man on the tree is mentioned and related to the crucifixion.”13

11 http://www.carm.org last accessed 05/31/2013

12 Hindson, Ed and Caner, Ergun, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR., 2008

13 Ibid

Since Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, and was charged with such, he was judged and found guilty on the basis of Jewish law.  This particular law called for the punishment of crucifixion, and thus the Jews cannot claim to have had no involvement in the killing of Jesus.  Absolutely amazing facts when one takes the time to read and study how much information can be obtained to defend our faith, or reason with others concerning our faith, n a loving and gentle way as instructed, (1 Peter 3:15).  And this just the tip of the ice berg as some may say.  One historical artifact has given us so much information concerning the Bible, its facts, history and apologetic usage, that one could almost live without faith, yet God has designed it that by faith we are saved, though revealing Himself through such things as His Word, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Conclusion

The purpose of this paper has been to show the facts, concerning the scrolls, their history and the apologetic use that the Dead Sea Scrolls have provided.  More recent developments concerning the scrolls to be considered would be the slowness of the release of the original writings.  It wasn’t until 1991 that the originals were released to the public.  However, the many theories, controversy, or other claims concerning the scrolls it remains, “Used as an aid to the proper understanding of the origin of the church, the scrolls are an invaluable asset to the defense of Christian truth.”14 And at the same time “it is a step in the right direction to understand that the Temple Scroll and documents which came to public view later clarify that the Dead Sea documents are to be read essentially for information about Pre-Rabbinic Judaism.”15

You Decide…Or do you? part three

Human Choice
.“There are three basic positions concerning human choices: determinism, interdeterminism, and self-determination”18.  Self-determination, or free will, “is the belief that people determine their own behavior freely, and that no casual antecedents can sufficiently account for their actions.” 19
It has been shown that free will, depending on what exactly one is discussing, is not a simplistic term to be thrown around in casual conversation.  Definitions have been presented, the salvation aspect, along with God’s plan concerning free will, and evil, have all taken a form in the this discussion.  It is at this point we must turn our attention to an answer, the answer of whether free will, or some form of it, is indeed most compatible with the Bible.
There options concerning human choice, determinism, interdeterminism, and self-determination, or free will.  The first two are not compatible with biblical teaching, though some may adhere to them, does not make it so.  The objective here is to provide a glimpse into why this statement is true, and to solidify our argument than the third option, free will, meets the objective in our presentation.
17 Hindson, Ed and Caner, Ergun, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics; Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR, 2008
18 Elwell, Walter A., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd edition; Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids MI, 2001
19  Ibid
“Determinism is the belief that human actions are the result of antecedent causes has been formulated naturalistically and theistically.”20 Determinist  believe every event is caused by a proceeding event.   In such, they feel one’s environment, genetic make-up other such attributes are responsible for human choices, and that because of these the choices could have been no other way.  For example, writing this paper on this computer has been fully determined by other factors.  This does not coincide with biblical teaching.  In fact, “if determinism were true, it would be self defeating, false, or be no view at all.  For in order to determine whether determinism was true, there would need to be a rational basis for thought; otherwise no one could know what was true or false.”21 Another form of states that all of human choice and events are determined by God.  This too is false as according to the Bible, Col. 1:17 states, He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  This saying that “God gave humanity free will; He sustains humanity so it can act freely, and He brings about all of His purposes without violating free will.”22
Interdeterminism states that human behavior or choices are both completely uncaused.  This view is completely unacceptable.  If one allows that human behavior is uncaused, then either the existence of God or any connection with God could not be true.  This would appear almost an atheist view, in that, God created the world, period.
20  Elwell, Walter A., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd edition; Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids MI, 2001
21  Ibid
22  Ibid
Finally, we come to the point to show self determinism, or free will, is in fact the most compatible view of human choice and the Bible.  Free will allows for our acts to be caused by us individually.  We believe that environment and heredity due in fact affect human behavior.  This meaning that human actions can be caused by human beings.
“Many object to self-determinism on the grounds that if everything needs a cause, then so do the acts of the will.”23  The answer is rather simple, at least to those holding this option, it being it is not the will of someone that makes decisions for them, it is the person acting by his own will.  We are the cause of our own acts, just as God created; there was no outside force, so there is no outside force causing human actions.  “For humans are created in God’s image, which includes the possession of free will.”24
It is obviously not that simple, and with further reading or research one will discover the terms predestination and foreknowledge and such coming up against our view.  However, without going into an in-depth article of each scenario, it is sufficient at this point to understand we, as humans, do in fact, up to a point, have free will.  The biblical view of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility line up nicely, with some form of free will, or self determination, providing the second of our two objectives being met with substantial evidence.
23  Elwell, Walter A., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd edition; Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids MI, 2001
24  Ibid

Conclusion
Free will, if it were only so easy!  It has been sown in this overview of free will the definitions may in fact determine the usage of the term, that there are many degrees and uses of the term, and finally that we do indeed have freewill, to an extent, depending on the definition, and usage of the term.  Some of the many approaches to free will have been presented and self determination or some form of, ( free will), is the most compatible with the Bible showing our initial objective has been shown and met.

You Decide…or do you? part two

“When we talk about free will, we are usually concerned with the matter of salvation.”4 This is an area of which much of the church is divided.  As many are troubled about who exactly is in control of our eternity.  “The Bible is clear that, in his natural state, man is incapable of choosing that which is good and holy. In other words, he does not have the “free will” to choose God because his will is not free.”5 Or does he?
It comes down to whether or not one professes Calvinism, or Armininism.  And, unfortunately, it is not that simple once again.  A professing believer of Christianity could, or should, probably state that salvation is by grace alone, and has nothing to do with each individual, or any type of work that he could do, to be saved.  In fact, both sides, (Calvinists and Armenians), may actually agree to that particular statement.  However, it would end there.  So what does free will have to do with salvation?  Especially if one is saved by grace alone.  That is exactly the point.
Calvinists can typically defined through five points in which is referred to as the acrostic TULIP.  Yet for the purpose here, we are only interested in the T, which stands for total depravity.  “Total depravity means that man is in complete rebellion against God, and by his “free will” he cannot discern the truth of the decision for Christ.”  “The Calvinist qualifies the meaning of “free will,” indicating that man is not totally free, but is able to respond to God because of election and irresistible grace.”6 Herein lies yet another complexity to free will, which in turn brings one back to defining the term, or even possibly interpretation.
http://www.gotquestions.org/is-God-sovereign.html; last accessed 5/ 24/2013
5  Ibid
6  Towns, Elmer, Theology for Today Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, Belmont, CA, 2002

Arminianism, on the other hand, “teaches that the fall of man did not destroy the power of the choice. Prevenient grace thus moves the person to see his spiritual need, enabling him to choose salvation.”7 This sounds a lot like free will, but yet again it is not that simplistic.  “It becomes apparent that there is a relationship between prevenient grace and free will.”8
This particular section of our discussion has presented a very limited overview of two belief systems, and has confirmed that though the two systems give the appearance of being straight forward in their thinking and ability to defend free will, along with other aspects of salvation, we have not begun to scratch the surface of either position.  The argument, for the purpose being discussed here, is the many approaches to free will, whether it be by definition, salvation, or as the next area of discussion, God’s plan.
Are You Sure?
God’s plan takes on an entire discussion, as does the previous points that have been made, that entails far more than the intentions presented here.  Once again, the point being presented here is simply, God has a plan.  “God has a definite plan for history.  This is supported in both the Old and New Testaments.”9  The question to keep in mind is , does this plan include us, as humans, to make major decisions, yet at the same time, so as not to over simplify the issue, if so why does He not stop us in some cases, (evil, sin, etc.), and if not, why does He allow such things as evil, sin etc.?  Free will, as has been stated many times previously, is not as simple as saying, for example, we are saved by grace, but God gives us free will to accept grace, just as it is not as simple to state once saved always saved, (eternal security).
7  Enns, Paul, The Moody Handbook of Theology; Moody Publishers, Chicago IL, 2008
8  Ibid
9  Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology 2nd edition; Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1998
Many have heard the statement, God has a plan.  In fact some have possibly used it themselves.  However, though many accept that God has a plan, it is not quite that easy when one adds the thought of free will into the equation.  The discussion of whether one can choose this or that, while at the same time whether or not a loving or just God would do or allow this or that becomes all too common in the Christian and secular world alike.  To an extent, many will agree that we, being human, indeed do have a part in His plan, how big or how small may lie in whether we are discussing definitions, salvation or some other subject concerning how much control God allows us to actually have.  “There are at least nine conclusions that may be drawn from the biblical references to God’s plan” 10 we will begin with the most simplistic side of the debate before moving on to a more complex presentation of the other side.
God’s plan, or what God does, theologically speaking, involves a variety of angles in which to approach the subject.  This paper however, is focusing strictly on the attitude of free will, as God has many Decrees and attributes in accordance with His plan, free will being one of them.
“The concept of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is an antinomy but is such only in the mind of man.”11 Meaning man acts in harmony according to his nature.  God may allow us to make decisions, which would appear obvious, but are we truly, or is God controlling such things?  Here is where many of the terms mentioned in our introduction begin to come into use.   “Many theologians use the terms predestinate and foreordain virtually synonymously. Predestinate relates to the eternal condition of moral agents, while foreordain refers to any matters within the realm of cosmic history.
10 Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology 2nd edition; Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1998
11  Ibid
Predestination will be reserved for the matter of eternal salvation, while election refers to God’s positive choice of certain individuals, nations or groups to have eternal life and fellowship with Him.”12
On the surface these terms would seem to be more appropriate under the salvation heading, but for a better understanding of God’s plan, in comparison or usage of free will, they are presented here.  This being, in an attempt to simplify, one of the approaches chosen to be presented within the subject of free will for this particular discussion.
“In the Old Testament, it was virtually inconceivable that anything could happen independently of God’s will and working.”13 For example, many would say it rained, while in the Old Testament it would be more in line with something to the effect of God sent the rain.  Most probably have never considered this type of thought in such a simplistic manner, if at all.  This is exactly why free will is so complex, as many of the other topics some individuals appear to take so lightly.
“The plan and purpose of God are also prominent in the New Testament.  Jesus saw the events of His life and events in the future as necessarily coming to pass because of God’s plan.  God’s plan is from all eternity.”14
At this point it would appear there is not free will among the human race, based solely on two separate statements.  Yet, as before, it is not that easy.
12  Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology 2nd edition; Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1998
13  Ibid
14  Ibid
All that has been accomplished until now is to show that God indeed has a plan, but how much
does He allow for us to be a part of the decision making within His plan?   This, in turn, brings
us back to the Calvinists and Arminians.

“Calvinists believe that God’s plan is logically prior and that human decisions and actions are a consequence.     Arminians, on the other hand, place a stronger emphasis on human freedom.  God allows and expects humans to exercise the will they have been given.”15  So as we can see it would appear on one side humans have free will to an extent, but on the other side, have are expected to use the freedom they have been given.
“Humans would not be genuinely human without free will.  This has given rise to the argument that God cannot create a genuinely free being and at the same time guarantee that this being will always do exactly what God desires of them.  Note, however, that whether humans are free in the sense assumed by Arminians (noncompatibilistic freedom) or free in a sense not inconsistent with God’s having rendered certain what is to happen (compatibistic freedom), God’s having made humans as he purposed means that they have certain capacities (e.g., the capacities to desire and to act) which they could not fully exercise if there were no such thing as evil.”16 As we jump to yet another angle of free will it would seem that again, we, as humans, do have some free will, but ultimately God is in control.  This opens many other questions, but to close out this particular section of the examples concerning free will, from definitions, to salvation, to God’s plan, including evil this writer would like to present one more example, a simple quote stating,
15 Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology 2nd edition; Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1998
16 Ibid
“if people are left free by God, then the morally significant states of the world will in large part be up to the decisions of humans (and angels), not up to God.”17