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A Christian Conservative Goes to College, part 16 (World Religions Class: Silent No More)

…knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel…” (Philippians 1:16, NIV).
 
When asked, “How can we foster the encounter of people with Jesus Christ?” C.S. Lewis replied as follows:

“You can’t lay down any pattern for God. There are many different ways of bringing people into His kingdom…. As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the Faith. We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colours [sic], if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away.”[1]
 

I was in this class for a reason. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus said. “A city located on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). I could not remain silent forever in the face of the endless attacks. But I am a much better debater on paper and in writing than I am in person; in person my emotions and my adrenaline begin to get the best of me. I needed my feet steady beneath me, planted on solid rock. After all, these philosophy professors are quick on their feet and they land some serious punches.  Additionally, they also referee the fight; they moderate the debate! They have complete control of the room; they are able to cut off debate whenever they like. They command the flow of conversation and can quickly switch topics if someone shows a flaw in their command of the “facts” or their argumentation. If someone makes a valid point, they can make a quick joke to obscure it and then move on.
         
My first interaction with the professor occurred around the second class when the professor told the class that it was St. Augustine who “in 500 B.C.” (the professor’s timeline off by about 800 years) came up with the idea of “original sin” and that original sin was not in “Jewish tradition”.
        
Certainly the specific term was never used in the Old Testament, but there are occasional intimations in places where, for instance, the Bible says that there is “no one who does right” (Psalm 14:1 / Psalm 53:1) and “there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3 / Psalm 53:3) where the words “no one” would include everyone, would it not? And what of Job 14:4, Job 15:14, Psalm 51:5, Proverbs 20:9, Jeremiah 17:9, etc.?
        
I responded to the Professor by saying, “Terms like ‘Original Sin’ might not be in the Bible, but terms like ‘Original Sin’ and ‘Trinity’, for example, are used to codify teachings found within the Bible and make them easier to understand.”
        
The professor jumped on my statement, as I expect he had done a hundred times over the years when Christian students spoke up in his classroom: “Trinity,” he said, “Okay, show me the ‘Trinity’ in the Old Testament.”
        
He caught me off guard for the moment and my mind almost blanked out. “Well,” I said, “there’s the passage in Genesis 1 where God says, ‘Let us make man in our image.” (Certainly not the best response, but a valid response none-the-less.)
        
“Okay,” professor Yu[2] responded, “‘Us.’ How many is that? Three? Seven? Ten? Why does it have to be a trinity?”
        
And suddenly we discovered there was another Christian girl in the class. Her name was Nadia and she was in her early twenties. We just so “happened” (providentially) to sit next to one another on the first day of class. She was from Belarus, part of the former Soviet Union, and called herself a Pentecostal. I would find that she too was often chomping at the bit, also wanting to speak up and argue with the professor, but she was even less sure of herself and less familiar with the debates than was I. The professor would readily trip her up more easily than me. So in this Trinity argument she brought up something about the Holy Spirit, but again he pounced:
        
“Show me the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Show me the Son in the Old Testament. You know, St. Paul’s interpretation about Jesus was not the same as Jesus’ interpretation of himself.”
        
Yes, what was Jesus’ interpretation of Himself? Certainly the professor would not be able to handle the weight of the Gospel evidence on that topic—that Jesus believed He pre-existed Abraham (John 8:56-58), that He believed He had the authority to forgive sin (Mark 2:10), that He had the power to lay His life down and raise Himself from up again from the dead (John 10:17-18), on and on I could go. The claims of Jesus are incredible if one takes time to study them.
        
So the professor wants someone to find the Son in the Old Testament?
        
Jewish New Testament writers found the Son of God in the Old Testament (and, as we shall see in a moment, in doing this they were simply following the truths that Jesus taught about Himself). Former Pharisee, Paul, “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5) wrote the following: “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers [the Jews in the wilderness] were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.... They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4, NIV). But if one reads the Old Testament account of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness for his or herself—it is God, in a pillar of cloud and a pillar fire, who accompanied them. The writer of Hebrews also found a likeness of the Son of God in the Old Testament when he speaks of Abraham’s meeting with Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20. He writes of Melchizedek as being “without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God” (see Hebrews 7:1-4, NIV). Can anyone see the Son of God in Psalm 22:14-18 or Zechariah 12:10, etc?
        
Consider what Jesus told the Pharisees and experts on the Old Testament: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39, NIV). What an audacious claim for this humble hearted (Matthew 11:29) Messiah to make! Note that Jesus later gives a Bible study about Himself: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27, NASB).
        
Perhaps Professor Yu, a 21st Century philosophy professor and one time teacher of the year, knew the Old Testament better than Jesus Christ.[3]
        
Of course it would take a much larger discussion than the sound byte discussion we were having in class, a longer discussion than he was going to allow. Throughout the weeks the attacks continued: One day the professor picked up on the old familiar attacks, saying that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed much later as an addition. When a Roman Catholic student spoke up about something he asked the student, “In that Catholic school did they ever talk about ‘Jesus as God’ as being idolatry?”
        
Now the professor had given the class a photocopied Gospel of Matthew to read for class. So when he asked for proofs of the Trinity from the Gospel of Matthew there was nothing but confusion and floundering from the class. Even Nadia’s attempted responses were poor. Then the professor gave me the opportunity: “Give me one proof from the book of Matthew where we see the Trinity.”
        
I’d made a lot of notes in the margins of my Matthew handout and grabbed a pretty solid one: “In Matthew 14:33 we find the disciples worshipping Christ, because He was the Son of God.” This verse, of course, can never be removed from its Jewish context. These were Jews worshipping Jesus! It would be a violation of the very first Commandment if Jesus was not God. But the professor ignored my counterpunch argument completely, not even addressing my point. He continued his usual ducking and weaving, sidestepping and obfuscating:
        
“But what does the name ‘Son of God’ mean anyway? And Jesus called himself the ‘Son of Man’ showing that he considered himself to be only a man.” He was completely incorrect on this and completely ignored the biblical and Jewish implications of both terms/titles. (See my column on the title “Son of Godhere and my column on the title “Son of Manhere, both are Messianic titles, both imply Jesus’ Deity. These points are inescapable to anyone who knows the Bible!) In my journal I wrote, “This guy [is]  as slippery as an eel, which is basically a serpent that lives in the sea.”
        
So the serpent continued saying that the doctrine of the Trinity and even the doctrine of Jesus dying for our sins was also a later addition. In response, I used the opening verses of the Gospel of John: “We very clearly read in the opening verses of the Gospel of John, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.’ That’s pretty straightforward.” [See John 1:1, NASB.]
        
Nadia presented Isaiah 53 regarding the idea of Jesus dying for our sins. This passage also answers the question of “Show me the Son in the Old Testament”:
 
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6, NIV).
 
The professor kept up his “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” smoke and mirrors routine, always moving away from our actual answers in order to ask his rhetorical questions (because, after all, he really did not want answers; his questions were actually statements): “Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:34 was the first one to put forth the idea of Jesus dying for sins,” he said. (He probably meant 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.) He did read Matthew 20:28, however, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”, but then questioned it: “Does this mean Jesus was going to die for our sins?”
        
Well, YES! In consideration of passages such as Isaiah 53 and Jesus saying, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” the answer would be YES! Yes, this does mean that Jesus was going to die for the sin of many.
        
He quoted “scholar” Karen Armstrong who wrote in “A History of God” that “at a very early stage, Jesus’ disciples shocked by the scandal of his death, had explained it by saying that it had somehow been for our benefit.”[4]
        
C.S. Lewis has written,
        

“Now [there is] a clearly maintained distinction between what the Faith actually says and what you would like it to have said…”[5] “These [people] ask me to believe [that] they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the texts themselves. They claim to see the fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight,” he writes, “All theology of the liberal type involves at some point—and often involves throughout—the claim that the real behaviour [sic] and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by His followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars.”[6]
        

Aaah, Paul, you prophesied by the Spirit of God when you wrote, “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear” (2 timothy 4:3, NLT).
        
What fools! If one reads a book such as Karen Armstrong’s book, then they should at least read the Gospels for themselves, or a book such as “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. As Peter Hitchens, brother of the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, has written,
        

“[The] widely accepted dismissal of faith by the intelligent and educated seemed then to be definite proof that the thing was a fake, mainly because I wanted such proof. The blatant truth, that we hold opinions because we wish to, and reject them because we wish to, is so obvious that it is too seldom mentioned…. There were, after all, plenty of Christian intellectuals available if I had desired reassurance that faith and intelligence were compatible. But I dismissed them as obvious dupes, who spoke as they did because it was their professional paid duty to do so…”[7]
        

Still, I was glad that God had allowed the Gospel of Matthew to be handed out and read in class, even if the Professor was trying to confuse and delude everyone. And I was glad for the opportunity to counter the attacks of the professor. In my journal, I later wrote, “I prayed that the Lord would use me to counter the falsehood, that my presence and Nadia’s presence would be used to counter falsehood, to stand for truth, to show there were legitimate and reasonable responses to the attacks. I believe God did have us there for a reason. I’d never planned to take a world Religions Class because I did not want to put up with the attacks. But I decided to take it last minute. God’s providence. God’s plan. Nadia and I were there to stand for the truth. (I was also leaving tracts all over the school, hoping and praying that students from my class in particular would pick them up.)”
        
Soon enough I would engage in my own way, with all the power and strength and giftedness that God has given me, in response to a class assignment given by the professor, “What’s the best word to describe Jesus? Prophet, Avatar (of the Hebrew God), or Bodhisattva?” I was about to write a paper on the Trinity entitled, “What can we make of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew but God-incarnate?” giving 22 specific proofs from the Gospel of Matthew itself. I was going to put it into the hands of both professor and students. Who knows, perhaps I was made… for just such a time as this.[8] Lord willing, you will read this in my next column of this series.
        

“There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” – G.K. Chesterton
        

______________________
Feel free to read columns I have written elsewhere here:
http://www.examiner.com/christian-perspectives-in-philadelphia/stephen-j-drain
______________________
 

[1] C.S. Lewis in a May 7th, 1963 interview with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Found in the book God in the Dock, in a chapter entitled, “Cross-Examination” (God in the Dock, copyright 1970, by The Trustees of the Estate of C.S. Lewis, published by William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, page 262).

[2] Not his real name. I chose “Yu” because, from what I found on the web, it means “Foolish” in Chinese. (See http://www.ehow.com/video_4402864_write-word-foolish-chinese-radicals.html.)

[3] Sarcasm.

[4] See http://books.google.com/books?id=yoaq8QzDmK0C&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=%22Jes...

[5] C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C.S. Lewis, published by William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, page 91.

[6] C.S. Lewis, The Seeing Eye, copyright 1967 by The Executors of the Estate of C.S. Lewis, Ballantine Books/Epiphany Edition: May 1992, page 210.

[7] The Rage Against God, copyright 2010 by Peter Hitchens, published by Zondervan, page 24.

[8] See Esther 4:14.

 

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