Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Fatal Logic of Hollywood Bone Collectors

By now you have heard of film director James Cameron's claim that he had found the tomb that contained the bones of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their son.

It seems a little silly to even attempt to refute the claims of an even sillier movie maker, but for those who need a good understanding of the apologetic basis for belief in the resurrection of Christ, one needs to turn no further than our own 18th century Baptist theologian extraordinaire, the brilliant Dr. John Gill.

In Gill's A Body of Doctrinal Divinity Gill devotes a chapter to The Resurrection of Christ From the Dead. In that chapter Dr. Gill beautifully and clearly defends the bodily resurrrection of Christ and closes his cogent defense by pointing out four personal and experiential effects of the resurrection of Christ upon each and every believer . . .

The blessings of the covenant of grace in general are enjoyed by the saints in virtue of it; for though reconciliation, and other blessings of grace, are by the death of Christ; yet the application and enjoyment of them are through his interceding life, in consequence of his resurrection from the dead; to which life the whole of salvation is ascribed (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 7:25).

Justification, in particular, is observed as one special end and effect of Christ’s resurrection; "he was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification"; and the triumph of faith, in the view of that blessing of grace, is rather, and more principally founded on Christ’s resurrection, than on his sufferings and death (Rom. 4:25; 8:33,34).

Regeneration is another effect of Christ’s resurrection; as the elect of God were "quickened with him", and in him, as their head and representative, when he was quickened and raised from the dead; hence said to be "raised up together" (Eph. 2:5,6), so they are quickened in regeneration, in consequence and virtue of his resurrection, to which it is ascribed (1 Pet. 1:3).

The resurrection of the saints at the last day is the fruit and effect of Christ’s resurrection, and which is ensured by it. Christ’s glorious body is the exemplar, according to which the bodies of the saints will then be formed; and his resurrection is the earnest and pledge of theirs; he is "the firstfruits of them that slept", that is, of the dead: the firstfruits are the sample, and what ensure a following harvest; so the resurrection of Christ is the sample, and gives assurance of the resurrection of the saints in time to come: so that Christ’s resurrection being certain, the resurrection of the saints is also (1 Cor. 15:20,23; 1 Thess. 4:14).

Why the Alleged Discovery of Jesus' Bones Means Nothing

Dr. Gill points out that it is the resurrection of Christ that brings to every believer in Jesus Christ all the blessings of grace, including complete forgiveness, perfect righteousness, unconditional acceptance, and eternal life. We believe, as did the Apostle Paul, that those without faith in Christ will bear the wrath of God for eternity (Colossians 3:6). This wrath, which is holy and righteous, is what the Bible describes as the eternal hell - a complete and absolute separation from the mercy and love of God, and a total individual and personal immersion into the holy anger and wrath of a righteous God. As the prophets of old were prone to say, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

There are many who do not believe the above paragraph to be true. It is ludricous to the atheist, unknowable to the agostic, and otherwise denied by all others who are not believers in Jesus Christ and the sacred word of God. But in closing this post I would like to posit a hypothetical and use simple logic to show why the ONLY people who should be worried about whether or not to believe Jesus' bones have been found are those without faith in Christ.

There are only two options regarding what happened to Christ after He died. He either was placed in a tomb and his bones decayed and returned to the earth's cycle of life (as naturalists call it), or He actually rose from the tomb, ascended to heaven, and now intercedes on behalf of all who trust Him as the Bible states. Since nobody on earth at this current time of history has personally and visually seen either the resurrected body of Jesus Christ or the bones of the decayed body and bones of Christ, both options require a measure of faith.

Now suppose, for the sake of logic, that Jesus Christ did not rise from the tomb by the power of God. If that is the case He is not God. He is a mere man. We are all products of evolution. There is no Creator. There is no accountability to any Supreme Being. We live. We die. We cease to exist. This is what James Cameron believes. It requires as much faith to believe that Jesus did not rise from the grave as it does to believe He did.

Now suppose, using simple logic again, that Jesus Christ did actually rise from the dead. We who trust in Him are accepted by God's grace. We are given the gifts of grace. Our sins are remembered no more. We receive the gift of perfect righteousness that comes from heaven. We are accepted without reservation by the One who created us. We have eternal life and will never bear the wrath of God - ever.

Both views require faith.

If our faith in Christ has no effect, for He is dead, then what difference does it make that we have faith in Christ? When we die, there is simply nothing. But if our faith in Christ is valid, and Christ did rise from the dead, then all the gifts of grace are ours -- we rest in Him, and the state of our eternity is secure. We are at peace with the God who calls us home to Him.

Who has more to lose based on their beliefs? It should be obvious to all - the James Camerons of this world have everything to lose and nothing to gain. There is no greater gamble than that of rejecting the historic Christian understanding of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. One's soul is at stake.

Again, the future state of your existence very well may depend whether or not you have faith and trust Christ's person and work on behalf of sinners, including His bodily resurrection - and that is a logical statement, not one of faith.

In His Grace,



Kevin said...

I have also done a little research on this. Visist KUYAKEVIN.COM for more info on the logical/scientific problems with the "lost tomb of Jesus."

Missionary in Manila

Glen Alan Woods said...

Ben Witherington III also offers a helpful response to this issue at http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/


Glen Woods

Kevin said...

Thanks, I've added one or two of his points to my blog and linked him.

Bill Scott said...

My hope, with this latest ANTICHRISTian controversy, is that people will explore what they really believe. Like the controvery over the Davinci Code fiction, I agree that it looks like it will harm the cause of Christ and confuse the unbeliever. I also believe that it is another opportunity to share our Faith in Christ with those seeking answers.

There have always been those who dispute the existence of the Risen Lord. I believe that we must be able to articulate what we believe and why we believe it to properly respond to this ministry opportunity.

Anonymous said...

ah.... Pascal's Wager.... will get people every time!

Anonymous said...

Well Said!!

In HIS Grip,
Bryant Owens

Anonymous said...

Matthew 24:24 (New King James Version)

24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Anonymous said...

I posted on this last night as well, and linked to posts at iMonk's site as well as Jesus Creed. Fox News had a good article on it last night, which is what led me to post on it.

S.A.M. said...

People who are blind spiritually grasp at anything to help others believe that they are not really blind.

Pastor Tony said...

Interesting that in my read-the-Bible-through plan I read 1 Corinthians 15 today. Wade, your "argument" sounds very much like Paul's!


Nomad said...

"Professing to be wise, they became as fools".

Bob Cleveland said...

Bill Scott:

I hope that, too, but I'm not all that optimistic.

Case in point: I love to have Jehovah's Witnessses, or LDS missionaries, visit my home. I just tell them what I believe, and they invariably leave immediately when I do. From what I hear from others in the church about their reactions to such visits, I can only conclude that they don't know a lot about what they believe.

This has been borne out by personal talks, and class members' reactions to lessons.

Cecdaddy said...

Based on the logic argument, there is something for James Cameron to gain if Jesus Christ did not rise again - he gains the ability to live without morality. If Jesus Christ didn't rise again, then why live a righteous life?

For someone who does not want to "waste" their time living morally for no reason, there is an excellent reason to try and disprove the resurrection, it gets them off the hook. They figure that if this life is all there is, then why not live it up, why spend our time following Christ (which to them is a chore and not pleasurable)?

Of course, such people would still have to wrestle with every other religion out there. I think it is ironic that noone puts this much effort in trying to disprove Islam or Buddhism. No, all anyone cares about getting rid of is Jesus Christ. Must be something going on there...

WTJeff said...

I have a friend who was once a minister and now is a professing atheist. He's extremely well read in the primary authors that try to debunk Christianity, especially Richard Dawkins. One of the things I've discovered is that it usually does no good to start off trying to talk facts. For every evidence you give to support the resurrection, the existence of Jesus, etc., they have what they believe to be equally convincing facts that state otherwise. What I've focused on with my friend is exactly what Wade points out in this post -- it's all a matter of faith. While atheist may believe that their views are supported scientifically, they are placing their faith in those who support such views to at least an equal extent as those who trust Christ.

I also try to focus the conversation to what Jesus has done in my life. Who I was before and who I've become through His grace. They maybe able to come up with a litany of "facts" that they believe debunk Christianity, but they can't argue with a changed life.

This seems to be making at least some headway. In his last email, my friend told me it seemed I worshiped a different Jesus than he did.

I continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to illuminate his mind.



John Moeller said...

It's funny how junk gets dug up and we believe it's true.

I think it just goes to show that P.T. Barnum's ancestors lived 2,000 years ago and that among the snake-oil's and freak shows, he had "The Bones Of Christ" on display for all to pay and see!

It's true; There is a sucker born every minute!

I wonder what movies will be made about us in a thousand years?

Bill Scott said...

I feel that my hope is definitely optimistic. I have to concur that many Christians don't know exactly what they believe and why they believe it.

On a personal note, I have learned more and have studied more as a result of this blog than I have in many years. I have learned in particular about how I agree or disagree with doctrine and dogma and how it lines up with scripture.

There is no doubt that is the challenge of teachers and preachers alike to spark a desire to learn and grow in their knowlege of the Word through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

I do concede that unless a person knows what he or she believes they will not be able to refute or engage those misled by fatal logic of any kind.

sepherim said...

While I agree with most of what you and others say about this, I do think you have missed the point. I don't think James Cameron cares one way or the other about whether Jesus arose. He just needs something to boost a career that has been sinking just like the Titanic. He is using Christian paranoia to make money, just like Dan Brown did.

I would ask you to rethink one of the claims you made.

"It requires as much faith to believe that Jesus did not rise from the grave as it does to believe He did."

Every atheist and agnostic I know would disclaim that, saying it does not take any faith to look at the birth, life, and death of a person as a natural process and say, "That is all we know." If there is anything beyond death it is a matter of conjecture or "faith." It doesn't take faith to not believe something.

I know that your statement comes from a popular perspective within the "Faith." And we can all draw some comfort from it, but if we want to have credibility when discussing these issues with those outside the "Faith," we need to be careful that our arguments are sound.

Anonymous said...

I posted on this over the weekend. All of it is so easily debunked. These people think that Christians are just ignorant enough, I suppose, that the acronym "DNA" will make us "run for theological cover."

All they proved was that the people in the grave were related to one another. What a shocker ... in a family grave.

This is about $$$$, not science. If it weren't, Cameron wouldn't be involved. I'm personallt dinished with the DC, though. I tired of their Christianity-bashing programming, which nas become a staple as of late.


Anonymous said...

Sorry for all they typos ... going too fast. :(

wadeburleson.org said...


I politely disagree.

It requires a great deal of faith to deny natural law.

It requires a great deal of faith to deny a Creator.

It requires a great deal of faith to deny this Creator has made Himself known to us.

It requires a great deal of faith to deny life after death.

You say, It doesn't take faith to not believe something.

It takes an enourmous amount of faith to deny that which is self-evident in creation, conscience and the person of Christ.

I stand by my post, and frankly don't care what those outside the faith think of me.


Anonymous said...

Puzzled child's question. "Since the box isn't big enough for a body, where were the bones until they were ready to go in the box?"

Anonymous said...

Not that you don't have enough to do, Wade, but have you ever considered maintaining one blog that deals with SBC issues and another blog that simply provides your thoughts on living for Christ? I'd be very interested in such a blog.

sepherim said...

I thought we were talking specifically about whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead. Something which is contrary to Natural Law. You and I believe that he was raised. That takes faith. For someone to say that I don't believe that Jesus was raised from the dead does not take faith. That's why we refer to them us unbelievers. Not believing something is true is not the same as denying that it is true.

I really don't think we want to get off into the Natural Law question, so I will leave that one alone.

That God has made himself known in Creation is a different question altogether and one on which we obviously agree.

Did you really mean you don't care what people outside the faith think of you? If so, how do you establish the credibility to share the Gospel with them if you don't care what they think?

wadeburleson.org said...


I do not believe that the soul is regenerated by a man's opinion of the messenger. It is regenerated by the Spirit of God.

I do, however, appreciate the clarification. I understand more fully your point about the resurrection, and do not necessarily disagree.

I was coming more from the perspective that every man has faith.

The question is, "Where is your faith?"

It is the exact question our Lord asked His disciples on the boat on Sea of Galilee.

wadeburleson.org said...


Thanks for the interest, but I could not do both.

At some point I will stop blogging about the SBC, and if I continue blogging it will be entirely on the Christian life.


Anonymous said...

Wade, I do believe God has called you to your current blogging state for the good of the Church as a whole, but you know my heart and it longs to read and discuss much more than the state of the SBC.

Rex Ray said...

The Bible teaches to argue with a fool is foolishness.

If only fools saw the documentary, do you think TV would produce anything that would attract a small audience?
That’s why I will not watch it, or talk about it. I’m sorry I’ve wasted my time reading about it.

How is it more important than reacting to Chapman’s challenge? Not a word has been said.
I think we all crawl into Patterson’s bunker of silence when we want to.
Rex Ray

irreverend fox said...

hey Wade, great stuff. this whole thing is honestly laughable...if they early church fathers were conspirators why would they not dispose of the body asap...why let it hang around for a year or so while the body dried and decomposed? and then, why would they gather the bones of the Christ they proclaimed is alive...AND THEN LABEL THE DARN BOX? And finally…why would the entire family be placed in Jerusalem when they were all Galileans?

And what was Mark doing in there?

lol…anything to justify unbelief…

Anonymous said...


A couple of days ago James White addressed this issue on Way of the Master Radio. The show starts at about five minutes. You can hear or download it at this link.


Bob Cleveland said...

After putting down my "huff" over this whole thing, I finally decided to look at this from a spiritual perspective.

I have to assume satan had something to do with it, since messing with people's faith seems to be one of his favorite pastimes. That brought up the question as to why God would sanction something like this.

One possibility is that there are a lot of imitation believers out there .. folks whose "faith" is based on the evidence of believers who lead a life they'd like to have; folks whose faith is based more on temporal evidence than on biblical faith in a risen Savior. Simply put, if this sort of thing can shake one's faith, then one's faith ought really, really to be examined.

So why now? My guess it's further evidence of the onset of the end times. Just like God cleaning up the bride for the marriage ceremony, to which I think all the messes that are being uncovered now, may be directly related.

Anonymous said...


Remember the "James ossuary"?

The Israeli Antiquities Department proved that one a fraud.

Are these from the same batch?

Oh boy.

Greg Cloud
VBC, Muldrow, OK