Wednesday, December 9, 2009

TBC Interviews Scott Klusendorf on Paul's View of Resurrection and Why it Matters to Pro-Life Advocates

Scott Klusendorf is President of Life Training Institute and author of the book The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway, 2009). Here at TBC, Scott explains why he discusses the resurrection of Jesus in his book on pro-life apologetics. Full disclosure: Scott is one of the contributors to TBC and chose the questions for this interview.

Thick Blue Cloud (TBC): Why is a pro-life apologist like you concerned about the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Scott Klusendorf (SK): Good question. And I'm glad you mentioned that I'm a pro-life apologist, not an expert on New Testament theology or history. Most of what I know on the issue of resurrection I got from reading Gary Habermas's The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, William Lane Craig's Reasonalbe Faith, as well as commentaries by Gordon Fee and George Eldon Ladd, to name a few. I'm hardly an original thinker on this topic.

TBC: In your book, you make a defense for the pro-life view that doesn't specifically advance a theological viewpoint. For example, you argue from the science of embryology that the unborn are one of us. You then argue philosophically that there is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that would justify killing you at that earlier stage of development. That's not a theological argument, so why the focus on the theological question of resurrection?

SK: You're right that I make a non-sectarian defense for the pro-life view. However, chapter 7 of my own book examines an important question related to the topic. Suppose we grant secularists their point that pro-life views are inherently religious. Suppose we further grant that our views are grounded in Christian theism. Does it follow our pro-life case is inherently irrational? Now of course, we could short-circuit our critics with a simple observation: The claim a fetus has value and a right to life is no more religious than saying it doesn't. And, we could further ask our secular critics to explain why anything has value and a right to life. After all, a universe that came from nothing and was caused by nothing produces human beings that are cosmic accidents. How do you get intrinsically valuable human beings in such a universe? But I think we can go one step further. We can demonstrate that theism does a better job explaining the evidence than its secular rivals. And, since Christian theism in particular stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I thought I better give some attention to it in the book. At the same time, Christians in general should challenge the idea that theology doesn't count as real knowledge. Sure it does, as my friend Frank Beckwith and others have pointed out.

TBC: Just to clarify matters up front, you believe that Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead, right?

SK: Yes. If he didn't, Christianity is one cruel joke.

TBC: Okay, let's forget secular critics for the moment. Does the Bible itself teach that Jesus rose from the dead?

SK: Yes, without question. Indeed, the nature of resurrection, and its application to the believer, is Paul’s specific theme in 1 Corinthians 15. The core of the argument is clear and to the point: If Christ did not rise from the dead bodily and historically, we are dead in our sins, our faith is in vain, and we have no hope. But Christ did rise from the dead as a living “firstfruits” example of what awaits all believers at the conclusion of the present evil age. In short, what God did with Jesus he will do for all those who belong to Christ.

TBC: Why did Paul feel a need to raise the issue of resurrection at Corinth?

SK: Good question. On one hand, his general theme of resurrection was not new. Indeed, from Pentecost forward, a major thrust of early apostolic preaching had been the relationship between atonement and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That the apostles truly believed what they proclaimed is evidenced not only by their sermons, but where they preached them. They did so in the very city where Christ was crucified and where the same Jewish leaders who ordered his death could order theirs. Given the clarity of preaching on resurrection, it’s surprising that any church, especially one with Pauline contact, would question it. But question they did, and the point of Chapter 15 is to answer those at Corinth who said in verse 12 there was no bodily resurrection. Verses 1-8 are key because they make clear that Paul’s overall contention was not the immortality of the soul—something his listeners at Corinth already accepted—but bodily resurrection based on a new reality ushered in by Christ. And it was precisely this truth that some at Corinth rejected.

TBC: Describe the cultural setting at Corinth. What part of Paul's teaching did the Corinthians find so troubling?

SK:Paul’s explicit claim was that Christ rose bodily from the dead. Not only did he rise bodily, he rose with a radically transformed and perfected body, one no longer subject to weakness, aging, or death. This was not an easy teaching for some at Corinth. The pagan culture of the time rejected bodily resurrection outright while the Jewish one embraced it only in part.

TBC: That raises an important point. There are secular critics who insist that Paul and other early Christians borrowed resurrection themes from pagan and Jewish traditions. You don't agree with that view. Why not?

SK: For starters, the pagan tradition differed radically from Paul’s teaching on resurrection. As theologian N.T. Wright points out, the ancient Greek worldview allowed for the soul to survive the death of the body, but never bodily resurrection. Once people die, they do not return. They may continue to exist as spirits in the underworld, but they do not reappear with resurrected bodies. Not even in drama or myth was resurrection permitted. For example, when Apollo tries to bring a child back from the dead, Zeus punishes both of them with a thunderbolt. “Once a man has died, and the dust has soaked up his blood, there is no resurrection,” states Apollo in Aeschylus’ Eumenides.

According to Wright, every Greek knew that dead people did not return. Culturally, resurrection of the body was a startling, distasteful idea that was completely unacceptable to the educated classes of the day. The best anyone could hope for was a legendary name and beautiful image.

TBC: But aren't you oversimplifying things just a bit? Greek thought was not uniform on many subjects, including belief about the afterlife. There was, after all, a difference between what Homer taught on the subject and what Plato believed.

SK: True, Greek thought varied on the exact nature of human persons and their relationship to the afterlife, but resurrection was not an option for anyone. For Homer and his followers, the body was the real ‘self’ (essence), while the spirit (soul) existed as a kind of half-life. Upon death, the real you—that is, your body—ceased to exist while your half-life (soul) proceeded immediately to Hades. Thus, dead men may in fact exist after death, but only as subhuman shadows of their former selves, spirits with no hope of return. Homer refers to the dead as ghosts, shades, and phantoms. In no way are they fully human, though they may look that way to us.

To illustrate this dark Homeric view of disembodied souls, Wright points to a scene from the Iliad where Achilles is confronted with the shadow of his deceased friend Patroclus, whom Achilles sent in to battle and has yet to bury. The dead man pleads for human contact: “Give me thy hand, I pitifully entreat thee, for never more again shall I come back from out of Hades, when once ye have given me my due of fire…” Achilles attempts to grasp the spirit, only to have it vanish like smoke. Leaping up in amazement, Achilles beats his hands together and in his desolation cries, “Ah then, it is true that something of us does survive even in the Halls of Hades, but with no intellect at all, only the ghost of semblance of a man.”

TBC: But Plato took a different view of the afterlife, didn't he?

SK: True, with Plato, the Greek picture changes, but not in ways that bring it closer to a Christian concept of resurrection. For Plato, the non-material soul is the real, genuine self while the body is the ghost. In fact, the body is a prison, a place to escape from. The separation of body and soul was desired precisely because it would allow the soul to flourish. The reason people do not return from Hades is because life is good there. There were exceptions, but again, none with relevant parallels to Christianity. The mythical Hercules, for example, escapes Hades, but he’s not resurrected bodily. Rather, he is admitted to the company of the gods. In short, neither the Homeric nor the Platonic view of the after-life bore any resemblance to the resurrection of the body proclaimed by the early church. As Wright's research makes clear, Christianity broke into a pagan world where its central claim of bodily resurrection was thought absurd. Homer’s Greeks couldn’t return; Plato’s Greeks wouldn’t want to.

TBC: Okay, that takes care of the Greeks. But Paul was a Jew. I can hear the critics now: Why not think he constructed a theology of resurrection from earlier Jewish traditions?

SK: Here's the short answer: Christian resurrection as Paul taught it builds on Jewish traditions, but differs from them. I'll say more about that in a minute. But first, which Jewish traditions do you mean?

TBC: Let's stick with the ones in play during the time of Christ.

SK: Fair enough. Well, as New Testament scholar Gary Habermas points out, Jewish thinking on the afterlife was less than unanimous among the three leading sects of the day. For example, the Sadducees denied resurrection in Acts 23:8 and challenged Jesus on it in Mark 12:18-27. Contra the Sadducees, the Pharisees in Acts 23:6-9 affirm both the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angelic beings. Pharisaic oral traditions from the period, eventually redacted and codified in The Mishnah, teach bodily resurrection while Sanhedrin 10:1 says those who deny it are denied inheritance in the next world. The Essenes, meanwhile, followed the Greeks in accepting the immortality of the soul, but some spoke of the rising flesh as well. Hippolytus, for example, discusses both traditions among the Essenes, making it difficult to know which ultimately prevailed.

TBC: So did any kind of consensus emerge?

SK: More or less. Despite differences, Habermas says bodily resurrection was indeed the dominant Jewish teaching in the centuries immediately preceding Christ. Put briefly, the bodies of the righteous experience transformation at the end of history while the wicked are judged for their actions. While not all OT passages refer to bodily life after death, Habermas and Wright both cite as evidence two texts that clearly do, Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2. The former speaks of the joyous conquering of death—“But your dead will live; their bodies will rise”—while the latter states that “multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”

TBC: Did Jewish literature between the testaments follow similar themes?

SK: Yes it did. For example, Darrell Bock drew my attention to 2 Maccabees 7, where a robust view of bodily resurrection is seen in the story of seven brothers who are tortured to death for keeping Jewish law. When torturers come to remove the tongue of the third son, he sticks it out defiantly and raises his hands. He essentially tells them they can have his bodily parts because one day God will restore them. Resurrection is also affirmed in The Testament of Benjamin 10:2-9 and 1 Enoch 51:1-2, 62:13-16, to name a few. True, other OT passages mention only the soul surviving death, but these do not foreclose on the body doing so. All that to say, Habermas and Wright are convinced that in the century or two before Jesus, as well as at the time of Jesus, Jewish teaching on bodily resurrection was the dominant position.

TBC: So why did Paul have a tough sell with Jews at Corinth?

SK: While Jews generally accepted resurrection, they did not expect it to happen to any man in the middle of history, much less their Messiah. Instead, it would happen to all men at the end of history. This Jewish understanding explains the disciples’ obvious confusion when Christ foretells his own resurrection in Mark 9:9-11. Even more telling is Martha’s response to Jesus in John 11:23-24. Jesus has just said He would raise Lazarus and she replies, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” William Lane Craig, citing German New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias, says that ancient Judaism did not anticipate resurrection as a current event. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus. True, there were examples of people coming back to life in both the Old and New Testaments (i.e., the widow’s son, Lazarus) but these are examples of resuscitations not resurrections. These same people were revived only to die again. Jesus’ resurrection was to a transformed and imperishable body, one that would never taste death again. Thus, it’s no surprise that Paul’s listeners, both Greek and Jew, were quite unprepared for resurrection as he proclaimed it.

TBC: But wasn't Paul addressing Christians at Corinth?

SK: Yes. It's a patchwork of Jewish and Greek believers, as seen in his reference to both groups in 1:22. But the mix of Jew and Greek was not equal. Paul’s extended critique of Greek knowledge versus the foolishness of the cross suggests there were more gentiles present than Jews, as does his specific reference to his listeners as former pagans in 12:2. Whatever the sociological mix, it’s clear the relationship between Paul and the church was deteriorating. The problems began with an anti-Pauline minority and had now spread to the whole church. While there were no doubt divisions between Jews and gentiles, Gordon Fee contends the most serious division was between the church members and Paul himself. They were challenging his authority at nearly every point, including his specific teaching on resurrection that he’s now forced to revisit.

TBC: What about those who say Christian accounts of resurrection were stolen the from various mystery religions?

SK: As Norman Geisler points out, Christain resurrection differs significantly from the dying and rising Gods (cyclical) of ancient mystery religions. These icons of mystery religions are not analogous to a historical Jesus. Many times they are not real people and most post-date Christianity. Thus, the comparisons to Christianity are unfair. As for those accounts that do involve real people, the most famous is Apollonius of Tyana, who allegedly rivaled Christ not only in his claims of deity, but resurrection as well. However, there are serious historical and theological reasons to contest this. First, the author of the story, writing 120 years after Apollonius dies, has the alleged messiah figure visiting Ninevah and Babylon—cities that were destroyed hundreds of years earlier. Second, what we get with Appollonius is apotheosis—that is, a man who is elevated to a god-like figure after death—not bodily resurrection as early Christians understood and proclaimed it. Third, the Appollonius story is backwards to the Christian one. Appollonius the man dies, then becomes god-like. Christ, meanwhile, first exists as God, eventually takes on an additional human nature, dies, gains a resurrected and transformed body, then finally returns to the Father. Hence, the alleged parallels between Apollonius and Christ are far from compelling.

TBC: Secular critics offer a number of counter explanations for resurrection. Some say Jesus wasn't truly dead, others say the disciples stole the body, and things like that. Your thoughts?

SK: Well, Christian apologists long before me as well as current ones have dealt with these objections, and they've done so persuasively. As I said earlier, unlike legendary sightings of JFK or Elvis—which always transpire in far-away places with virtually no reliable eyewitnesses—the disciples proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus in the very city, Jerusalem, where He was crucified. It’s hard to imagine anyone taking risks like that unless the tomb truly was empty. And what are we to make of the disciples’ transformation? Remember: On the eve of Christ’s crucifixion, they fled in terror. Peter even denied knowing Jesus. Yet just a few weeks later, here they are boldly preaching a resurrected Jesus. How do we account for this remarkable change? The best explanation is that the disciples truly believed they saw the risen Jesus.

TMC: But don't some critics say the disciples stole the body?

SK: They do. But why should anyone think the disciples were capable of pulling off such a stunt? Given they fled when Jesus was arrested, it’s difficult to imagine them gathering the courage to subdue or bypass the Roman guards posted at the tomb. And what motivation would they have for taking that risk in the first place? They had nothing to gain and everything to lose. Creating a hoax would bring them persecution and death, not to mention theological damnation for blaspheming their Jewish faith. The evidence for a stolen body simply isn’t there.

TBC: Other critics assert that Jesus never died, that he was merely in a coma and the cool environment of the tomb revived him.

SK: This is extremely unlikely. First, the Romans were experts at killing prisoners with crucifixion. They had to be. If they failed to kill the prisoner, the penalty was death! Second, a mere man could not survive torture, crucifixion, and three days in a tomb with no medical attention. Third, how could a semi-comatose Jesus, badly in need of medical attention, roll away the heavy stone and overcome the Roman guards? Fourth, even if He did escape the tomb and overwhelm the guards, would the sight of a Jesus badly in need of medical attention convince His disciples that He gloriously and triumphantly conquered death?

TBC: Nevertheless, critics influenced by theological liberalism insist the Gospels are not reliable because Christ’s disciples later reconstructed and embellished the events surrounding his life and death.

SK: Nice story, but what's their evidence? Look, just because Christ’s closest followers recorded his words and deeds does not mean they freely made things up about him. In fact, there is no real evidence the New Testament writers took any liberty with the text. Rather, as J.P. Moreland and Michael Wilkins point out, liberal and secular critics simply assume that because the gospel accounts contain supernatural elements, they were later embellished. But this reply is question begging, as it rules out the evidence a-priori. Rather than investigate the evidence for the supernatural on its merits, critics simply dismiss it because their naturalistic worldview will not allow it. This is intellectually dishonest. Craig Blomberg makes an excellent point. Jewish scholars are the foremost authorities on Hitler’s holocaust against the Jews. It is Jewish researchers, after all, that create museums, gather eyewitness testimony, etc. They clearly have an ideological purpose, but they have also been most faithful and objective in reporting the facts. Only anti-Semite racists question their scholarship. Why should the New Testament writers be treated any differently? Is it fair to assume, as the Jesus Seminar does, that because the disciples followed Christ, they freely reconstructed Him?

TB: So I take it you're not a fan of The Divinci Code?

SK: Ha! Look, if you want to talk about reconstructing history, take a look at modern authors like Dan Brown, not ancient ones like the disciples. Alan Gomes writes that while Brown may be a fine fiction writer, his historical fiction--which he claims is based on true historical facts--is pure lunacy. His main character Teabring, for example, claims that prior to the Council of Nicea, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mere mortal prophet. Only after a close vote did did the Council ascribe deity to Christ. Well, the vote at Nicea wasn't even close (300 to 2!) and everyone at Nicea already believed Jesus was the Son of God and not a mere mortal. The question under dispute was whether Jesus was a created divine being rather than an eternal one. The overwhelming majority affirmed his divinity. Indeed, Christians living centuries before Nicea affirmed Christ's deity, including Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, Irenaes, etc. Teabring also says over 80 gospels were considered for inclusion in the New Testament Canon, but the Council of Nicea allowed only four. First, the Council of Nicea had nothing to do with determining the New Testament Canon. Nor were there ever 80 gospels to choose from. Second, the so-called Gnostic Gospels Teabring champions were quite late compared to the biblical ones and they largely affirmed Christ's divine nature while downplaying his human one. Thus, they work against Brown, not for him.

TBC: You mention in your book the minimal facts argument for resurrection. What do you mean by that?

SK: Well, again, the idea is not my own, but originated with Gary Habermas. Simply put, the minimal facts generally accepted by a majority of both liberal and conservative scholars include: 1) Jesus died due to crucifixion. 2) Jesus was buried. 3) The disciples despaired after the crucifixion. 4) Jesus’ tomb was found empty. 5) The disciples had real experiences that convinced them of a risen Jesus. 6) As a result of these real experiences, the disciples were completely transformed, to the point of being willing to die for their belief. 7) The disciples proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus early, in the very city where he was crucified. 8) The early gospel message centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus. 9) Paul and James—initially skeptics—become Christians based on what they thought were real experiences of the resurrected Jesus. Given the majority of scholars accept these minimal facts (though a small minority disputes #4), what’s the best explanation for them? Habermas concludes the resurrection best explains these minimal facts.

Again, we should not lose sight of the fact that Christian resurrection is unique. Neither the pagan world nor the Jewish one anticipated bodily resurrection as proclaimed by the apostles. The early Greeks thought it absurd, later Greeks found it distasteful, and the Jews simply couldn’t imagine it. In short, there is no reason to suppose that the New Testament authors made the story up from borrowed sources. If critics aim to prove resurrection false because of its alleged parallels to the ancient world, they would do well to consult that world before discounting the claims of the New Testament writers.

TBC: Back to Paul's specific argument in 1 Corinthians 15, do you really think he meant to say you must believe in Christ's bodily resurrection or else you're not a Christian?

SK: That's exactly what he says. Take a look at the text. Already in verse 1 we get a hint that something is not quite right, for Paul must “remind” his readers of the gospel upon which they stand. His language here is deliberate: It’s a reminder their past, present, and future hope is predicated on the gospel he preached to them, and to it they owe their entire existence as believers. Then, to make sure the point is not lost, Paul expands it in verse 2 with both a conditional promise and a somber warning. By this gospel—which is anchored in the bodily resurrection of Christ—they are saved, but only if they hold firmly to the “word” he preached to them. If they don’t, their faith is wasted. In short, there was no wiggle room here. The very salvation of his listeners was at stake. Here Paul anticipates what he’ll argue more fully in verses 13-19, namely, that if Christ is not raised, their faith is futile and they are still in their sins. But Christ was raised, so their justification is complete. Church historian Phillip Schaff once said the miracle of the resurrection and the existence of Christianity are so closely connected that they must stand or fall together. A gospel of a dead Savior would be a contradiction and a wretched delusion.

TBC: Beginning in verse 3, most commentators agree Paul is citing an early church creed. What is the significance of this?

SK: We already know from the book of Acts that far from being a late revision, the apostles preached the resurrection of Jesus early on, within weeks of Christ's ascension. What this particular creed tells us is that the earliest converts believed what the apostles preached. The essentials of apostolic preaching are all here: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and was raised on the third day. Later, he appeared to Peter and then the twelve. The creed presupposes a breach between God and man due to human rebellion. The just penalty for that rebellion is death, which Christ absorbed in our place. As Gordon Fee points out, this is the language of substitution and here it is woven into the earliest of Christian creeds.

The nature of Christ’s burial and resurrection is integral to the creed. The phrase “that he was buried” establishes that an actual dead body was laid in the ground. Thus, when Paul says Christ “was raised,” he is speaking of a real body, not a spiritualized phenomenon. Indeed, if the early church meant to convey a spiritual resurrection—that is, one where Christ attains a new non-bodily state of glory—why include that “he was raised on the third day?” Moreover, if spiritual rather than bodily resurrection is in view, there is no reason for Christ to wait even a minute for glorification, much less three days. Wright says that in passing along the story of resurrection in the form of an early creed, Paul makes clear the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a founding story not to be messed with. We are witnessing a very early Christian tradition, something that was widely preached and believed two decades before Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians. No wonder Paul says he must "remind" them of his gospel rather than instruct them in it. The Corinthians had wandered from this essential teaching.

TBC: Why does Paul bring up eyewitnesses?

SK: The initial list of eyewitnesses in verse 5 is further proof that when Paul speaks of resurrection, he means bodies and he means history. When Christ rose, he did so bodily and historically and people actually saw him. Wright says "the whole thrust of the paragraph is about evidence, about witnesses being called, about something that actually happened for which eyewitnesses could and would vouch."

In short, bodily resurrection is the foundation of Paul’s gospel. Jesus was not resuscitated. He passed through death and emerged with a transformed and perfected body, one that would never experience weakness or decay again. But this is only the beginning. What God did for Christ he will do for us who believe.

TBC: Let's move from the theoretical to the practical. What applications can pro-life advocates draw from Paul's teaching on resurrection?

SK: First, faith is not a blind leap in the dark, but, as Greg Koukl likes to say, trust based on evidence. Note again Paul's mention of eyewitnesses. Note again what the apostles preached very early on.

Second, the body matters. As Richard Longenecker points out, “Paul never thought of the body of man as the tomb of the soul or as corrupting of itself.” Those are pagan ideals. Rather, a biblical view affirms that humans are a dynamic union of body and soul and God is in the business of redeeming both. Yet contra Paul, some Christians posit a body/person dualism that allows us to set aside a class of humans that can be killed from another class that can’t be. Those humans with limited cognitive ability—fetuses and the elderly—are fair game. However, the idea that a human becomes a person only after some degree of cognitive development amounts to saying, “I came to be after my body came to be,” or, “I inhabit a body that was once an embryo.” Absurd. We are far better to argue that all humans have an equal right to life that comes to be when we come to be.

TBC: What does Paul's claim about resurrection say to Christian post-modernists who downplay our ability to know objective truths?

SK: You're on to something big here. Simply put, credo matters more than experience. The Corinthians had all kinds of religious experiences, yet Paul says that absent the gospel he preached, their faith was in vain. Put simply, Christianity has to mean something specific or it ceases to be Christian, no matter what one may feel. At a minimum, it means four things. First, Christ atoned for our sins. Second, he was buried bodily. Third, he was resurrected bodily. Fourth, we can know it really happened—there were witnesses. Deny any one of these and you no longer have Christianity, no matter how “authentic” you feel. Yet deny is precisely what some “Christian” authors do when they insist we can’t know anything objectively, including theological truth, because we are trapped behind language. Setting aside the self-refuting nature of their claim—namely, is their own view true or just a construct of their language community?—the Bible presents a radically different picture. I like how one of my Biola professors, Dr. R. Scott Smith, once put it when he said that God has indeed spoken, as a fact of reality, and that he is making a universally true claim. That claim is that all should repent, and that Jesus will judge them. And, most significantly, He actually has raised Jesus from the dead. For Paul, these are facts about the way things really are, and they are true for all people. In short, Christian postmodernism nullifies the gospel.

TBC: You've said that some pro-life advocates are really suffering right now. A few have been wrongly jailed. Others are nearly bankrupt due to lawsuits. Still others want to do more, but lack the economic means to support themselves. How can Paul's teaching on resurrection encourage them with hope?

SK: Paul makes the point that for the Christian, suffering is redemptive. He doesn't sugar coat things. He's clear, for example, that pain and death are real. They sting. But resurrection is more real. Gary Habermas lost his wife to cancer at age 43. During his grief, he counseled himself by pondering the fact of resurrection. “I am unsure why things are happening the way they are, and I am suffering. But this is still the same world in which God raised Jesus from the dead. Eternal life for believers is the direct result of this great event. Therefore, I can still trust God that there is a sufficient answer here, even if I do not know what it is.” Based on what he knew about God, Gary realized that he could trust God even in those things he did not know. What he knew was that God raised Jesus, and that meant he would do the same for Debbie. And he will do the same for us if we hold firmly to the gospel Paul preached.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Pro-Life Book

Scott Klusendorf of Life Training Institute has a new book which will be released on March 30 entitled The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway, 2009). Here at Thick Blue Cloud we place a high priority on the protection of innocent human life, especially the unborn.

You can read a sample of what Scott covers in this interview with Justin Taylor.

Endorsements for The Case for Life:

“Scott Klusendorf has produced a marvelous resource that will equip pro-lifers to communicate more creatively and effectively as they engage our culture. The Case for Life is well-researched, well-written, logical, and clear, containing many pithy and memorable statements. Those already pro-life will be equipped; those on the fence will likely be persuaded. Readers looking to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves will find much here to say. I highly recommend this book.”
Randy Alcorn, best-selling author

“Scott Klusendorf takes the insights and methods for defending the right to life he so effectively communicates in his teaching presentations into a book that provides a clear and cogent biblical rationale for the sanctity and dignity of life, born or unborn. This is a great tool for the layman who knows he or she is pro-life, but doesn't understand the presuppositions on which his or her beliefs are based or who doesn’t feel equipped to defend or discuss the issue with others.”
Chuck Colson, founder, Prison Fellowship

“The Case for Life is a veritable feast of helpful information about pro-life issues, the finest resource about these matters I have seen. It is accessible to the layperson, and it lays out a strategy for impacting the world for a culture of life.”
J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University; author of Kingdom Triangle

“The Case for Life has set a new standard for pro-life apologetics. Accessible for the layperson, Scott has articulated and refuted every major and minor pro-choice objection to the pro-life position.”
Barbara Shackelford, Executive Director, A Women’s Pregnancy Center, Tallahassee, Florida

“Scott Klusendorf’s accessible, winsomely-written book presents a well-reasoned, comprehensive case for intrinsic human dignity and worth. Klusendorf not only equips the reader with incisive, insightful responses to pro-abortion arguments, he also presents a full defense of the biblical worldview.”
Paul Copan, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, Florida

“This book will equip the reader to articulate both a philosophical case and a biblical case for life and to answer intelligently and persuasively the main objections to the pro-life position. It is easy to follow and hard to put down.”
Patrick Lee, McAleer Professor of Bioethics, Director, Institute of Bioethics, Franciscan University of Steubenville

“The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage Culture by Scott Klusendorf is prophetic and practical. It is prophetic in the sense that it makes a clear and undeniable argument based on truth about human value. It gives a biblically informed pro-life view. It is practical because it provides pro-life advocates a toolbox for offering understandable defenses for the unborn. It shows how to logically answer objections and move a debate to a dialogue. As a pastor, I was challenged, informed, and inspired to confidently and graciously make a difference in my generation for the cause of life.”
Jimmy Dale Patterson, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Newman, Georgia

Here's the table of contents for The Case for Life:

Part One: Pro-Life Christians Clarify the Debate

1. What's the Issue?
2. What Is the Unborn?
3. What Makes Humans valuable?
4. Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Morally Complex?

Part Two: Pro-Life Christians Establish a Foundation for the Debate

5. The Ground Rules: Can You Name My Claim?
6. The Ground Rules Part 2: Is Moral Neutrality Possible?
7. Foundations: Does God Matter or am I just Matter?
8. Dead Silence: Does the Bible Justify Abortion?

Part Three: Pro-Life Christians Answer Objections Persuasively

9. From Debate to Dialogue: Asking the Right Questions
10. The Coathanger Objection: "Women will Die from Illegal Abortions"
11. The Tolerance Objection: "You shouldn't force your views on others."
12. The Single Issue Objection: "Pro-lifers should broaden their focus"
13. The Hard Cases Objection: "Rape justifies abortion"
14. The "I Don't Like You" Objection: "Men can't get pregnant" and other attacks
15. The Bodily Autonomy Objection: "It's my body, I'll decide"

Part Four: Pro-Life Christians Teach and Equip

16. Equip to Engage: The Pro-Life Pastor in the 21st Century
17. Healed and Equipped: Hope for Post-Abortion Men and Women
18. Here We Stand: Co-Belligerence without Theological Compromise
19. Can We Win? How Pro-Life Christians are Making and Extraordinary Impact

Taken from Scott Klusendorf's introduction from the book:

"My own thesis is that a biblically informed pro-life view explains human equality, human rights, and moral obligations better than its secular rivals and that pro-life Christians can make an immediate impact provided they’re equipped to engage the culture with a robust but graciously communicated case for life.
Making that case is what this book is about.

Part one helps pro-life Christians simplify debates over abortion and embryonic stem cell research. These issues are not morally complex, though they are often presented that way. Can we kill the unborn? Yes, I think we can. If. If what? If the unborn are not human beings.

Part two explains why moral neutrality is impossible. In a typical abortion debate, the pro-life advocate will be grilled incessantly on every one of his starting points. His critics will demand to know how a right to life can stand apart from fundamental religious underpinnings, why those underpinnings should be allowed to inform public policy, and why anyone should suppose that just because I exist as a human, I have a right to life others are obliged to respect. The truth is, both sides bring prior metaphysical commitments to the debate and are asking the same exact question: What makes humans valuable in the first place?

For Christians fearful they’ll get caught with nothing to say on abortion, part three provides answers to the most common objections including appeals to the hard cases, assertions of bodily autonomy, and personal attacks that ignore the real issue. Pro-lifers who stay focused on the one question that truly matters, the status of the unborn, won’t be sidetracked.

Part four addresses questions related to the pastoral side of pro-life advocacy. First, what is the role of the pro-life pastor? To make an impact on culture, pro-life pastors must not only understand the times, but pursue four vital tasks which I outline in some detail. Second, are evangelicals who work with Catholics, Jews, and others to reform culture compromising the gospel? Some evangelicals say yes. I say no, provided we draw careful lines between co-belligerence and co-confession. Third, how can post-abortion women and men find hope? Many precious pro-life advocates I meet are trying to atone for past abortions with tireless activity. There’s a better way. It’s called grace. Finally, I conclude with three goals designed to lay a foundation for victory.

I do not pretend to have written an exhaustive defense of the pro-life view. That’s been done already by selected authors I cite throughout the text. My purpose is different. This book will take those sophisticated pro-life defenses and put them in a form that hopefully equips and inspires lay Christians (with or without academic sophistication) to engage the debate with friends, coworkers, and fellow believers.

Admittedly, a book about pro-life apologetics may not appeal to some lay Christians. It seems many believers would rather focus on end times rather than these times. That’s a mistake. Humans who ignore questions about truth and human value may soon learn what it really means to be left behind."

Thick Blue Cloud will interview Scott on the book at a later time, I hope.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oliva Serie V Figurado [Ralph]

Okay, I'll cut right to the point. This is the best smoke I've had to date. The construction of the cigar is incredible. It was definetly a toothpicker. (That is, the taste was so good that even when smoked beyond the point at which I could hold the cigar in my hand, I continued to smoke it with a toothpick inserted.)

I've seen this classified as a full-bodied, strong smoke. I say it's medium and a delight all the way through.

Take your time with this one. It's best smoked with a friend over a good discussion.

Size: 6x60 Cost: roughly $8 stick, or $170 per box of 24.

Monday, October 1, 2007

La Flor Dominicana Ligero [Ralph]

This was a great smoke and I enjoyed it while overlooking the golf course at Arbor Springs Plantation. I can't say it enough: This stick had great flavor. (For an even stronger smoke, you can get the double ligero, but that's too strong for me.)

Be sure to light this stick the right way, as my friend Jay insists. That is, do not draw on it until it is fully lit. Focus instead on using a bunch of matches until it's buring evenly. Then start with easy draws.
The reward is awesome. Hurry and buy up as many of these as you can. If Hillary gets elected, she's gonna tax the heck out of cigars so she can use the money to buy everyone free abortions.

Monday, July 2, 2007

What Liberalism has Brought

Quote of the Week , from Jonah Goldberg, NRO:
"It's now illegal to smoke indoors in England. But you're still free to call for Jihad against the government, I suppose."
Question for you Brits: If you don't get a real leader who understands that terrorists, not smokers, are the real enemy, how long will it take before you bow your knee to Allah?
Hint: It's sooner than you think. May I suggest that you read this book before it's too late? It's written by a real Prime Minister.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Victory Cigar for Me, Hall of Shame of Kennedy, et al

I'm Celebrating the Senate voting down that horrific immigration bill--you know, the one that would have granted amnesty to 20 million Mexican trespassers who don't give a rip about our laws? Right now, I'm lighting up a Camacho Coyolar.

I must confess, I just loved seeing Kennedy stand there ticked beyond belief that the American people would actually stand up to him!

Oh, and don't get me started on the pathetic Sam Brownback. He voted for cloture before he voted against it--all in the course of a few short minutes. Not even John Kerry could pull that off. Buddy, you are not presidential material. Get out now before you make a complete fool of yourself. I'd hate to have to depend on your decisive leadership in a crisis.

Finally, here's an idea for the rest of the wannabe GOP candidates for prez. If you'll say what follows and mean it, you can't lose. You jst can't! The location for the soundbite is El Paso TX, overlooking the Rio Grande:

"My fellow Americans, if you elect me President, I will refuse to sign ANY bill that comes my way until the funds already allocated for border security are released and construction resumes on the 800 mile fence. If those idiots in Congress try and stop the funding for the fence, I will stop everyone of their precious little spending bills dead in their tracks. My first priority is to defend the American people against security threats, and that starts with tightening our own borders. How the Hell are we supposed to keep Al-Qaeda out of Iraq when we can't keep trespassers out of Texas? As for Senator Kennedy, I have a special message for him. Teddy, if you want peace in the Senate, get down here and help build this wall."

If you think Congress has low approval ratings now, wait till a Presidential aspirant with balls drops that soundbite on them.

Hint: That aspirant won't be Hillary for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quote of the Week: Charles H. Spurgeon

Alright Ralph, this is for all those good Protestants out there:

"What, for some, is sin, others do to the glory of God. And the good Dr. Pentecost's remarks notwithstanding, I intend to go home tonight and smoke a cigar to the glory of God. It is a kind of incense drifting to Heaven."

- in response to an unknowing guest preacher at his church

(see The Life and Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon)