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The Burial Box of Jesus’ Brother James – Fact or Fake?

After seven years of trial, testimonies from a lineup of archaeological experts and a 475 page verdict, presiding Judge Aharon Farkash of the Jerusalem District Court court not reach a decision supporting the fact the ossuary [a limestone burial box] of James, brother of Jesus, was a forgery. As a result the Jerusalem judge could not charge Israeli collector Oded Golan, the owner of the bones box of James, with forgery regarding the ossuary.

A Huffpost Religion article summed up the seven year controversy and what the final verdict implies:

Golan said the ruling put an end to what he portrayed as a 10-year smear campaign against him. Hershel Shanks, editor of the Washington-based Biblical Archaeology Review, said he was delighted, insisting the burial box, or ossuary, is authentic and a “prized artifact to the world of Christianity.”

The Israel Antiquities Authority, which believes Golan’s most high-profile items are forged, said the case shows the limits of science in proving forgeries, but it also prompted museums and universities around the world to be more suspicious of finds of uncertain origin.

In light of the ruling students of the Bible are left with the conclusion the ossuary may be authentic after all and that science could not debunk the veracity of the claim that the box once housed the bones of James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth.

James, the brother of Jesus

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Love Wins Loses Out

In the last installment of my examination of Rob Bell’s Love Wins, the focus was on the character of God.  Bell continues his questioning of the person of God in the remainder of chapter seven, “What is God like?”

Throughout Love Wins Pastor Bell struggles with the idea of a God who is just and punishes sin and a God who demonstrates His love by sending His Son into the world to die for our sins.  A quote from a sermon by Pastor Alistair Begg best summarizes the interchange between God’s holy character and love – concepts Rob Bell cannot swallow:

If God in His love . . longs to forgive sinners . . . longs to enjoy friendship with sinners . . and if in His justice He cannot ignore our sins, how then He display His love and execute His justice?  The answer lies in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the cross Jesus is an emblem of the Father’s love and Jesus is the one who bears the Father’s wrath. If He [the Father] were to excuse sin, He would not be true to Himself in the perfection of His holiness. Therefore, sin must be punished. But because of the magnanimous, unbounded nature of His forgiving love, He execute His justice on His Son so that those who deserve that judgment may find in the Son forgiveness, love and eternal life.

The Mars Hill Church pastor feels this kind of statement from Alistair Begg communicates a gospel that “subtly teaches people that Jesus rescues us from God” (pg. 182). Rather Bell offers his Love Wins Gospel as an alternative, “We do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin and destruction.” It is that Rob Bell  ha a foggy notion of the biblical doctrine of salvation. On this point alone Love Wins loses out. 

From the Old Testament we learn an innocent animal had to die in exchange for the life of the guilty sinner who offered the animal to find forgiveness of sins. Yes, under the Jewish sacrificial system an innocent goat had to die so the guilty sinner can have his sins atoned for.

In addition, much to Bell’s chagrin,we cannot escape the fact our sin earns God’s wrath as explained in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” and Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He satisfied the wrath of God against sin.  The nature of God is not separate from the “death, sin and destruction” He pronounces against our sin. In fact, the consequences to our sin flow out of the holy character of God and not removed from His character as Bell implies. It is because God is just in dealing with sin that there sin death, sin and destruction. The wrath of God against our sin is due to God’s just character. It is this wrath that Jesus had to deal with on the cross for us to be forgiven. (more…)

Wondering What Happened at the Cross?

The wearing of the cross by celebrities and their imitators as seen in tattoos and jewelry has created too much of a  familiarity with the instrument upon which Jesus died.  In Pastor Rob Bell’s book Love Winshis aim in chapter five is to sift through the familiarity of the cross and get to the truth about what took place when Jesus died. With this goal in mind, I am in complete agreement.

As Bell lists the various perspectives on the cross, once again the Love Wins author gravitates to a position of uncertainty. He wants to make the results of Jesus’ death an “either/or” situation.  Once again Bell takes a giant leap from traditional Christianity and  invents as emergent church godfather Brian McLaren calls, ” a new kind of Christianity.”

The Cross Speaks of the Sacrifice Jesus Made On Our Behalf

First, the author speaks of the death of Jesus by which the Messiah paid for our sins much like the sacrifices in the Old Testament (pg. 123). He quotes from Hebrews 9:26 which claims Jesus appeared “once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Bell compares the sacrifice of Jesus to other cultures where worshippers offered sacrifices to appease the gods or forces in order to maintain a peaceful, favorable relationship with them.  How odd!   Jesus did not die to put an end to pagan sacrifices or simply to please a whimsical, vengeful.  Yet Bell says, “Whole cultures centered around keeping the gods pleased. . . . And now the writer [of Hebrews] is announcing that those days are over because of Jesus dying on the cross” (pp.124-125).

The problem with Bell’s view of the substitutionary death of Christ is that he forgets Jesus was fulfilling and putting an end to the Jewish sacrificial system as described in the Torah books of Leviticus and Numbers. Jesus was not dying to appease the gods of the Greeks or Romans.

The Cross Signifies the Reconciliation Between God and Man

The next meaning of Jesus dying on the cross has to do with reconciliation .  In Colossians 1:20 Paul taught, ” and through Him [Jesus] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven”. Reconciliation, according to Bell,  has to do with bringing two people together who were estranged and now they found a way to work it out and come back together in a new relationship. (pg. 125).

Here is where you have to watch the craftiness of  Pastor Bell.  He says on pg. 126 when Jesus died, He made peace “with all things.” You can bet your last dollar Bell will take those words to a place Paul had no intention for the phrase to go. The application of the reconciling work of Jesus to “all things” will be discussed further. (more…)

Jesus: Here, There and Everywhere

Where were you when you accepted Jesus as your Savior? I was in the Mojave desert under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs crying out for God to deliver me. Regardless of my experience,  I refuse to tell others if they want to find Jesus, take several tabs of LSD, Mescaline and Psilocybin and He will appear to them. God forbid!

While I am aware Jesus comes to us in the strangest of places and circumstances, I am hesitant to say things like, “You can find Jesus in Hinduism, Buddhism or any religion that mentions the name of God or gods.”  Quite the contrary, each encounter we experience when we find Christ needs consistency and fundamental aspects.

Different Ways People Come to Know Jesus

In Rob Bell’s  book Love Wins, a work of exploratory theology, the pastor reports different experiences people had when they found Christ. One person was knocked off his chair and fell prostrate to the ground totally overwhelmed by God’s unconditional love for him (pg. 139).  I encountered the same exact sense of God’s love for me in the Mojave desert.  Yet as soon as I realized the depth of God’s unconditional grace, I repented of my sin before His holy presence.  (more…)

Jesus is the Only Path to God; You Just Don’t Know It

There’s not a Christian alive who does not know the contents of John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What is there not to understand about this verse?  How much clearer can Jesus be about the fact men and women come to the Father through Him alone?  Yes, it is an exclusive statement that excludes the validity of other religious figures (and their followers) like Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna and every other so-called deity or religion.  John 14:6 is everything but inclusive.

Is Jesus actually a backdoor Redeemer?

Leave it to Rob Bell to find a loophole in what I call a  “Christianity 101 Bible verse”.  Bell says on page 154 of his widely read book Love Wins, “What He [Jesus] doesn’t say is how or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through Him. He  doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through Him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore is happening through him.”

When I think of all the off-the-wall theological comments Bell makes in Love Wins, this is the worst.  Would Acts 4:12 make it clearer for Bell?  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

For Bell to claim Jesus doesn’t “even state that those coming to the Father through Him will even know they are coming exclusively through Him,” is heresy or just plain mental confusion. Is Bell saying a person who places his faith in Buddha is actually saved through Jesus; he just doesn’t know it. What about Satan worshippers?  Where is this taught in the Bible?  Are people who worshipped Molech or Baal in the ancient Canaanite culture actually worshippers of the God of Israel; they just didn’t know it. Why didn’t the God of Israel instruct Israel to enlighten the Canaanites instead of tearing down their altars and wiping them out? (more…)

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