articles from the From The President column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Numbers 1 and 2, 1992.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
Are We Really Willing?
by Hank Hanegraaff
From the From The President column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Number 1, 1992.
When professor Tatiana came to the Christian Research Institute on a January afternoon, she had one thing in mind: getting help for her people.
Tatiana is a language instructor at Moscow State University, and a fairly new Christian. But even as God's love and peace shone from her smile, something weighed heavily on her heart. Why? One of the dear friends in Russia who had led her to Christ had become a Mormon. What, she asked, could we give her to help her show this friend the errors of Mormonism?
She had other pressing concerns as well. At the university medical school where her husband works, the Moonies are making serious inroads with the administration. Meanwhile, Tatiana is alarmed by Hare Krishnas who are aggressively hawking their wares at every major subway station in Moscow. She asked us for materials to help answer the questions of the Christian student group she works with in Russia, and she left with an armload.
It has been rightly said that the ultimate test of a man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. We are witnessing a unique and truly awesome moment in religious history. In answer to the prayers of millions, the Iron Curtain has come down with a thunderous crash. But before the dust had even settled, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Moonies, Scientologists, Mormons, and other cultists were poised and ready to exploit the situation. And Eastern Europe -- deprived for decades of the things of the spirit -- rushed to partake. Indeed, "to the famished man any bitter thing is sweet" (Prov. 27:7).
The gravity of the situation has seldom been brought home as powerfully as in the January 13, 1992 Christianity Today article entitled "New Kingdoms for the Cults." This powerful piece of journalism is based largely on file material supplied by CRI, which has been monitoring the situation closely. When I first read the article, even I was stunned by the extent to which the cults are successfully exercising their financial and political muscle in the East. Cult leaders such as the Unification Church's Sun Myung Moon, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism's Daisaku Ikeda, and the guru Sri Chinmoy have all met with Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev. Among Moon's trophies: permission to fly nearly 2,000 university students to the United States for indoctrination.
Years of behind-the-scenes, advance planning has paid off handsomely for cults such as the Mormons, whose leaders sent performing troupes from Brigham Young University as well as high-level diplomatic contacts into the Soviet Union and its communist satellites from the late 1970s onward. In The Darker Side of Virtue: Corruption, Scandal and the Mormon Empire, scholar Anson Shupe details the careful compromises made by Latter-day Saint envoys with communist officials -- guaranteeing, for example, that "Polish Mormons would be taught to be 'good citizens,' to uphold the government, and to follow the country's socialist work ethic. In short, Mormons wouldn't provoke political trouble."
All during 1991 we received requests for help from Christians in Russia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and other countries in the region. One wrote: "I'm a young Christian boy from Sofia, Bulgaria, and I used to be a member of the Children of God cult for about one year and a half. Maybe you'll be surprised to know that such cults are now flooding the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe. I left the Children of God five months ago. The problem with them now is that in Bulgaria they still haven't revealed their cultic nature.
They seem quite evangelical, and unfortunately many young Christians join them, being deceived, not knowing anything about Moses David and the Children of God." Indeed, both the church and the general public are largely ignorant and all but defenseless in the face of the cult invasion. While the response to Christian evangelism has been encouraging, much of the budding evangelical movement in Russia and Eastern Europe has shallow roots. The churches are filled with new believers. In many cases, the pastors (or congregational leaders) themselves have only been Christians for one or two years.
So deep is the spiritual hunger in these nations that during last summer's conventions, the Jehovah's Witnesses baptized 18,293 converts. Incredibly, their peak membership in 1991 for the region was nearly 210,000. For me, the near frenzy of the cults to exploit the spiritual vacuum in the former Eastern Bloc is the clearest illustration of why the ministry of the Christian Research Institute is so desperately important. The need to warn and equip believers to deal with deception is so tremendous that it can hardly be overemphasized. It has been rightly said that the ultimate test of a man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. The critical hour has arrived, and Christianity in the West must decide. Are we really willing to do for the truth what the cults do for a lie? Will we stand up to this invasion of the cults while we still have the opportunity, or will we allow our new brethren to go like lambs to the slaughter?
Mark my words: the answer will determine the fate of generations to come.
The Resurrection: Miracle or Myth?
by Hank Hanegraaff
From the From The President column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Number 2, 1992.
What was the central truth of the early apostles' preaching? What was the stimulus to the miraculous growth of the early church? What was the energizing force which spread the gospel across the face of the earth?" These questions, posed by Dr. Walter Martin in his book Essential Christianity, all find their answer in the singular event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "He is risen!" was the victory cry of the early Christians, as they spread the message of Christ's bodily resurrection to the ends of the earth.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very capstone in the arch of Christianity. When it is removed all else crumbles. It is, in fact, the singular doctrine that elevated Christianity above all the pagan religions of the Mediterranean world. And it is precisely because of its strategic importance to the Christian faith that each person who takes the sacred name Christian upon his lips must be prepared to defend its historicity.
Thus the question must be asked, How can we know beyond any doubt that Jesus really rose from the dead -- that this singular event is not some queer predilection on the part of the Christian but is rather faith founded on irrefutable fact?
As Christians, we must be prepared to demonstrate that Christ's resurrection was an event that occurred in time and space -- that it was, in reality, historical and not mythological (cf. 2 Pet. 1:16). The importance of this event cannot be minimized, for Jesus Himself proclaimed that His resurrection would prove His power over death, and thus His deity (John 2:18-22). Not only that, but Christ's resurrection is the very heart of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
When I first began examining the evidences for Christianity, I discovered that belief in the Resurrection does not constitute a blind leap into a dark chasm but rather a step into the light. Indeed, the evidence for Christ's resurrection is so overwhelming that no one can examine it with an open mind desiring to know the truth without becoming convinced of its truth.
Of the many evidences available, none is more compelling than the fact that the resurrected Christ appeared to over five hundred individuals at a single time (1 Cor. 15:6). Christ appeared to numerous other individuals as well, providing "many convincing proofs" of His resurrection (Acts 1:3). Christ in His resurrection body was even touched on two occasions (Matt. 28:9; John 20:17), and challenged the disciples (Luke 24:39) and Thomas (John 20:27) to feel His wounds.
For those who continue to harbor doubts about the veracity of the biblical evidence, one need only point to Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the greatest authority on legal evidences in the 19th century. It is noteworthy that after examining the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Greenleaf suggested that any cross-examination of the eyewitness testimonies recorded in Scripture would result in "an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth."
Despite the biblical evidence, some have suggested that Jesus' body was stolen from the tomb -- by either the Romans, the Jews, or the disciples. However, even as we consider such alternative explanations, reason drives us back to the conclusion that Christ rose from the dead. Consider the following: We know that the Romans would have no reason to steal Christ's body. After all, they wanted to keep the peace in Palestine.
The Jewish religious leaders would also have no motive in stealing the body since that would only stir up the very movement they had tried to crush. Besides, if the Jewish leaders had stolen the body, they could have later openly displayed the body to prove to the disciples and indeed the world that Jesus had not really risen from the dead.
And certainly, the disciples wouldn't have stolen the body, for why would they choose to suffer and die for a cause they knew to be a lie? While it is conceivable that someone might choose to die for what they know to be the truth, it is inconceivable that hundreds of Jesus' followers would be willing to die for what they knew to be a lie.
Another theory that has been resuscitated (ad nauseam and ad infinitum) in a desperate attempt to explain away the Resurrection is the so-called "Swoon theory." This theory says that Jesus did not really die on the cross, but merely passed out and was later revived. However, this theory is hopelessly flawed. Think about it for a minute. Can you imagine that Jesus endured six trials, a crown of thorns, a Roman scourge, a crucifixion, a spear thrust into His side, the loss of a great deal of blood, going three days without medical attention or food, pushing a two-ton stone away from His tomb's entrance, and then physically overcoming an armed Roman guard while walking on pierced feet? No! The Swoon theory is ridiculous in the extreme. And yet, amazingly, some people continue to hang their hats on it.
After carefully examining all the evidence, one can only come to the singular conclusion that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead and that He now lives to be our Lord and Savior (Rev. 1:18). And let me emphasize that the resurrection of Christ is not just an Easter-time phenomenon to be celebrated in song and service. Rather, it is a truth that should daily fill us with eternal hope. Not only did the resurrection of Christ transform the disciples from cowards to lions of the faith, but His resurrection still continues to transform lives today. Because Christ lives, the Scripture says, we will live also. Indeed, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be transformed into physical resurrected bodies like unto His resurrected body.
End of document, CRN0048A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Are We Really Willing?" and "The Resurrection: Miracle or Myth?" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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