Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Paul Reasons at the Synagogue of Thessalonica

17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. (Acts 17:1-9 (ESV)
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
He reasoned with them, explained to them, and proved to them. With Paul, the Christian faith was reasonable. It was one of the great tools he had with him that he reasoned with people about the faith. One of the great strengths of Christianity is that it is reasonable. At a time when the paganism of antiquity was being discarded as being folly and silly, Christianity showed itself to be reasonable. And it still is reasonable.
But today? Well most of so-called Christianity has become extremely lazy. We don’t want to reason. Too often the thought is that reason is against faith, that only hard science is reasonable and somehow it has the upper hand in the debate, when often it has nothing to say to the issue at all, though people want it to speak to the issue. In actual fact the other side is about as lazy in their reasoning when it comes to issues of faith. The science gambit is most often nothing more than an appeal to authority, and then you have the authorities appealing to authorities, but no one seems to be able to dress the emperor. The truth of scripture is one that can’t really be decided by a telescope or a microscope. Neither for or against. The evidence put forward from these devices has to be interpreted and interpreting brings you right into a whole host of philosophical and epistemological issues that frankly few “scientists” one reads and hears today are qualified in any manner to deal with. The great Philosopher of Science in the Twentieth Century, Karl Popper, was known to bemoan the fact that it seemed scientists had gotten very good at measuring, but were incapable of thinking. Tyson Neil DeGrasse will go on and on and on about how a philosophy major isn’t worth the time, and seems oblivious to the fact that he has uncritically accepted an entire philosophy, and not a very good one at that, himself.
And it is all just lazy. You can’t dismiss the historical truth claims of a resurrection by showing the earth revolves around the sun. Neither can you prove the historical truth claims of a resurrection by demonstrating the irreducible complexity of a hair follicle. Christianity and science actually mesh with each other quite well, if you let them. There is actually a reason why there have been so many great scientific advances in the western world influenced most greatly by Christianity.  
But the laziness often cuts both ways, and is almost codified, not just among Christians, but in society as a whole, which somehow now believes that the definition of faith is something on reasonable. People actually believe that you can’t believe in something reasonable. And conversely, it seems, the more unreasonable the faith, the greater the belief which is somehow a virtue in and of itself. Having faith, has become a virtue on its own, apart from any consideration concerning that which you believe in.
Paul reasoned for the resurrection. He did so by going to the scriptures and pointing to the prophecies of the Jewish faith, prophecies made by prophets that had proven themselves trustworthy. Many of these prophets suffered themselves for that which they prophesied, but the things they said would happen did in fact happen, in their own life times, and sometimes shortly after they were executed for prophesying calamity. Many in Israel saw no problem with shooting messengers of truth if the truth was hard to hear. Then Paul showed how Jesus was the Christ because he fulfilled these prophecies with his resurrection. Everything hinged upon the resurrection, which Paul himself was witness to. At the center of Christianity is the resurrection, an event recorded, and vindicated by historical investigation. It is hard to see how it would have taken off the way it did, if claiming Jesus rose from the dead, any of the enemies of this faith could have produced the body. Certainly, 3,000 men in Jerusalem would not have been convinced by the Apostle’s preaching had the body been in the tomb, or they could have come up with  any plausible alternative as to why it wasn’t where they knew it should be.

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