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Genesis and the Cross

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First published: 21 March 2008 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 3 April 2015 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 30 March 2018 (GMT+10)

It may seem odd for people to celebrate the humiliating defeat of their leader and hero. But the suffering, shame and death of Jesus Christ are a source of hope to Christians.

No one wants to live in a world where evil is ignored, or worse still, approved. Everyone yearns for justice when they have been mocked, insulted, betrayed or abused.

Who has not rebelled when they have been treated like an animal or a thing? We have a deep desire for our wrongs to be put right, for our suffering to have meaning.

The cross of Christ answers our human need. In Jesus’ Passion we discover that behind the universe is a God who treats every person with immeasurable value, who cares about justice.

To the evolutionist the death of Christ makes no sense. Misotheist Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker (ch. 4) said that we live in a universe that he thinks looks like it has ‘no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.’

The Cross of Christ means God cares

‘Pitiless indifference’? Dawkins thinks that way because he thinks evolution is true, that we are just the product of blind, materialistic processes. If there is no God, then Dawkins is right. There is nothing out there that even knows you exist. And Dawkins tells you to get used to it.

But the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ destroy that desolate outlook. They prove once and for all that God exists and cares about what happens in this world—about what happens to you, and the way you live your life.

Antony Flew, once described as the ‘world’s most notorious atheist’, surprised an audience in May 2004 when he announced a change of mind—that he ‘accepted the existence of a God’.1

Although he is still dealing with the question of Jesus Christ being God incarnate he said, ‘I would say the claim concerning the resurrection is more impressive than any by the religious competition.’2

Previously, in 1985, Dr Flew had debated philosopher and theologian Dr Gary Habermas on this very question, the proposition that Jesus Christ conquered death itself.3 This debate was held in Dallas in front of a crowd of three thousand people. It was judged by two panels of experts from leading American universities: one panel comprised five philosophers who were asked to judge the content of the debate, and the other comprised five professional debate judges who were asked to judge the quality of the arguments.

Four of the five on the philosophers panel voted that Habermas had won, i.e. the case he made for the Resurrection was stronger than Flew’s attempts to refute it, and one scored it a draw. The panel of professional debate judges voted three to two to Habermas. The following comments from two of the judges follow:

‘I am of the position that the affirmative speaker [Habermas] has a very significant burden of proof in order to establish his claims. The various historical sources convinced me to adopt the arguments of the affirmative speaker. Dr Flew, on the other hand, failed, particularly in the rebuttal period and the head-to-head session, to introduce significant supporters of his position. Dr Habermas placed a heavy burden on Dr Flew to refute very specific issues. As the rebuttals progressed, I felt that Dr Flew tried to skirt the charges.’
‘I conclude that the historical evidence, though flawed, is strong enough to lead reasonable minds to conclude that Christ did indeed rise from the dead. Habermas has already won the debate. … By defeating the Hume-inspired skeptical critique on miracles in general offered by Flew and by demonstrating the strength of some of the historical evidence, Habermas does end up providing “highly probably evidence” for the historicity of the resurrection “with no plausible naturalistic evidence against it.” Habermas, therefore, in my opinion, wins the debate.’

It all hinges on Jesus’ Resurrection. The Apostle Paul wrote about Christ that he was ‘declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead’ (Romans 1:4). We know that Jesus is who He claimed to be because of His Resurrection. Indeed, there are at least 17 factors that show that Christianity could not have succeeded in the ancient world, unless it were backed up with irrefutable proof of the Resurrection.4

The Resurrection of Christ gives us hope and purpose

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‘No purpose’? Dawkins thinks like that because he imagines there is no Creator with a plan and design behind our existence. Yet, even people who believe in God are sometimes crushed by lack of purpose. How can God be both loving and all-powerful when there is so much suffering and evil in this world? Everything seems so random and pointless.

But death and suffering were not part of the world that God originally created. They are a result of sin. ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22). We are all descended from Adam and Eve and we all suffer and die as a consequence of their disobedience, and ours. And Adam’s sin had catastrophic effects on the whole creation—see The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe. But because the obedience of Jesus Christ, we can be made alive, all of us, when we are in him. See also Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?

That Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sin shows us that sin is serious and that it has consequences. Death is not an integral part of a selection process that produced biological diversity over billions of years. Death is the consequence of being estranged from our Creator. ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday, gives us hope. The gift of God is eternal life. And this hope gives us purpose for living.

The Apostle Paul once challenged some academics of his day, ‘Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?’ (Acts 26:8). Even many who believe in God can’t accept that He will supernaturally raise the dead to life.

If God did not create Adam supernaturally in the past, then it is inconsistent to think that He will raise the dead supernaturally in the future. If God needed the laws of nature to act on matter and energy over millions of years before the first man and woman emerged, then why would we expect him to change his modus operandi in the future and raise the dead supernaturally?

But that is not the way God created. In the beginning, on the sixth day of Creation, God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). On the third day after the Crucifixion, in an instant, He raised the cold, dead body of the Lord Jesus Christ to life.

And because Jesus was raised, we shall be raised too. ‘For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed’—‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.’ (1 Corinthians 15:52).

For Christians, the death of Christ means that our sins have been taken away, that we have been reconciled with our Creator, and that we have a living hope for our own glorious resurrection.

And because of that we know that everything that we do in this life has meaning in the long term.

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58).

References

  1. Flew, A., There Is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind, Harper One, New York, p. 74, 2007. Return to text.
  2. Flew, ref. 1, p. 187. Return to text.
  3. Habermas, G.R. and Flew, A.G.N., Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, ed. Terry L. Miethe, T.L., Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1987. Return to text.
  4. See Holding, J.P., The Impossible Faith, Xulon Press, Florida, USA, 2007; . Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Gennaro C.
Thank you Tas walker for your article. I would added that we will never stop to consider and appreciate the love and mercy that God the Father nourishes toward us; it did motivate the sacrifice of Jesus! The dreadful experience that God allowed Abraham to live in his willingness to sacrifice Isaac: the pain, the desperation, the impotence to avoid the sacrifice of his beloved Isaac - his ONLY ONE, shows to scale, the anguish of the Father and the Holy Spirit to witness the excruciating suffering of Jesus on the cross to save all of us. May God be exalted ab aeternum for that. Shouldn't our life be leaved in a never-ending thanksgiving mode?
Terry D P.
It is indeed curious to hear atheists aka evolutionists arguing that the man who called himself the Son of God could not possibly raise his dead body to life as he predicted. Especially so, given they believe that life spontaneously arose out of inanimate matter (abiogenesis) and then somehow survived to evolve from creatures of low intelligence through countless generations over millions of years into the highly intelligent man Jesus.
«/ To the evolutionist the death of Christ makes no sense. Misotheist Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker (ch. 4) said that we live in a universe that he thinks looks like it has ‘no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.’ /»
The atheist Richard Dawkins, without any love for Christ the Creator of the universe governing his life, does indeed speak the truth about himself living a “meaningless life of pitiless indifference”.
Bill P.
It humbles me to know that The Creator of heaven and earth The Lord God gave up His Glory to become a man to give His Life, by taking upon Himself, willingly, the penalty we deserve for our sins.
He could have said "I'm done with man" and just destroyed us, but instead motivated by His Love showed us mercy instead. Only He could do this.
I am in awe of Him. "Who is like The Lord, from everlasting to everlasting He Is God, and there is no other"
Norman P.
The title of this article, 'Genesis and the Cross' is heart-warming, as it also addresses the issue of 'What of those who never heard the Gospel?' Luke's genealogy of Christ, showing his lineage through David's son Nathan to Mary, goes right back to Adam! There's therefore no such thing as 'pre-history'. All previous generations of mankind possessed an instinctive awareness of God in the Creation; and because of the Fall, sin and death; and because of Noah's deliverance at the Flood, righteousness and judgement. A few, like Abraham, found grace to keep the way of the Lord "to do justice and judgement" (Gen 18:19)
In the long generations of darkness, it is also evident from the OT scriptures that man was not without conscience; also, God "did not leave himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" We see the typical heathen scene the apostles faced, as they preached the good news of Christ at Lystra, and the wonderful miracles that attested to Christ's resurrection from the dead, with the Spirit convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (Acts 14:1-18; John 16:1-11). How wonderful that Jesus' submission to the Cross opened up the way for the prince of this world to be judged, for captivity to be led captive, and for many sons to come to glory! "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31). That 'appointed day' must surely now be very near!
Eddie C.
Great article for Good Friday. One of the leading reasons why Atheist claim to deny God in this age is the argument that, "If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and good then how can he be idle when bad things happen?" If there was no explanation for this, I would say that they have a great point. The explanation though is the fall, man's descent into disobedience. We're not innocent, in fact we are all as guilty in the eyes of God as any other man. We think about the most heinous crimes and atrocities and think we are better than that, but the truth is that all of us have that capacity for that kind of evil. We are the epitome of depravity. The hard truth is this is why a good God can still allow the suffering and death of a young child and remain a good God, because even that young child is guilty.

Our God could have just left us in that state, but he did not. Our glorious God sent Jesus Christ, his Son and a person of God himself to redeem the depraved race of man. No man can take glory in his own righteousness or salvation from God. All of the glory belongs to the merciful God that, despite man's depravity, made a way for us to have life again and to be restored to the God who made us. Praise the LORD, our God is not only good, but he take pity and mercy on us. Yes, it is Good Friday.
Terry D P.
Atheists argue: "If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and good then how can he be idle when bad things happen?" Thus, those of the Atheist faith argue that God does not exist, because He seems to be idle when bad things happen.

But Atheists do not appreciate that God knows the difference between good and evil, as it here says in Genesis:
«/ He [God] said, ‘The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; what if he now reaches out his hand and takes fruit from the tree of life also, eats it and lives for ever?’ So the LORD God drove him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he had been taken. — Gn§3:22-23 /»

Furthermore, God says in Isaiah and in Lamentations, that he creates both good and bad things:
«/ I am the LORD, there is no other; I make the light, I create darkness, author alike of prosperity [good] and trouble [evil]. I, the LORD, do all these things. — Is§45:7 /»
«/ Who can command and it is done, if the Lord has forbidden it? Do not both bad and good proceed from the mouth of the Most High? — Lm§3:37-38 /»
Indeed, you only have to look what God did to the Israelites after patiently waiting for them to repent of their idol worship, violence and evil deeds.

Then there is the notable account of Job in the Bible, upon whom Satan is set loose by God, with the objective of proving that Job will remain faithful to God, even though God strip him of all his possessions, children and health. No, the LORD is not idly standing by when both good and evil things are happening on earth; He is actively causing it.

Rather, it is the "non-existent god/idol of creation by evolution" (in whom Atheists put their faith), which sits idly by on its non-existent hands for mega-years when it comes to doing good and preventing evil things.
Tas Walker
Many Scriptures say that God is not the author of evil: "God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone" (James 1:13). "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33). In other words, He cannot in any way be the author of evil.
You quote Isaiah 45:7 and add in square brackets the word [evil] to claim that God is the author of evil. However, even the translation you used does not say evil, but trouble. Other translations use the word calamity. In other words, God plans calamity as a judgment for the wicked. In no way does He create evil. Evil originates from the fallen creature.

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