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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Testimony of the Martyr

It is said that one of the key proofs of the truth of Christianity is her martyrs. I mean, large numbers of people have given their lives for their faith, beginning with every single Apostle except John. It sounds impressive, perhaps even convincing, but given the counter question, you might see the problem. "What about the Muslims? Those pilots that flew airplanes into buildings and the suicide bombers who gave their lives for their faith? Does that mean that Islam is just as true?"

You can see, then, that we need to be more careful when we say that those who gave their life for the faith demonstrate the truth of it. On the surface, the claim isn't accurate. Only when you look a little more carefully will it work.

There is a fundamental difference between a suicide bomber and the Apostles who died for their faith. The key difference is their faith. That is, both died for what they believed to be true, but there they diverge. A long history of Christians gave their lives for their faith as have Muslims for their faith, but the Apostles are a different story. On the surface, it looks the same. They gave their lives for what they believed, but what did they believe? That is the difference. Later Christians and current Muslim suicides gave their lives for a belief system. The Apostles, on the other hand, gave their lives for a truth claim -- a verifiable, testable, falsifiable, empirical truth claim. Peter wrote, "We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." (2 Peter 1:16) Paul wrote, "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me." (1 Cor 15:3-8) Notice the list of truth claims here. In effect, Paul is saying, "Don't believe me about the Resurrection? Ask Peter. Ask the other Apostles. Ask those other 500 or so. Ask James. No, really, ask James, the brother of Christ who wasn't even a believer when Christ died. Hey, look at me! I was an enemy of Christ, but I'm an eyewitness myself."

The skeptic would like you to believe that it's a matter of faith against reason. It is, indeed, a matter of faith. It is a matter of belief and where you place your confidence. No doubt. (Play on words, there.) But the Resurrection is attested by eyewitness accounts from people who were either complete idiots making up an outlandish story for which they died without the good sense to recant before being put to death -- "Okay, okay, you got me. It was just a story. We were trying to put together what we thought was a good religion, but dying for a lie makes no sense at all." -- or their deaths for their truth claims itself is evidence that their faith was based on the truth. That is the fundamental difference between those particular martyrs for the faith and every other martyr for their faith. In that sense, these martyrs are compelling evidence for the truth of the Christian faith because they died for things they said they witnessed, not merely believed.


Bob said...

apparently dying for your faith does not convey the substance of the faith. men are dying all the time for things they believe in. but the distinguishing feature has to do with how they lived. the Muslim martyrs died while killing the infidel. the christian martyr dies for preaching the truth. the fact that a man dies for his belief is not so amazing, its what the man believed during his life, that make his death worth while.

Stan said...

I think dying for your faith proves you believed in what you died for. The question is whether what you died for was genuine ... which not demonstrated by dying. Except, I would suggest, in the case of one dying for something that can be tested and evaluated, a specific claim (like "I am an eyewitness of the Resurrection.") in which the one dying for the claim could avoid dying simply by denying it if it were false.