Saturday, December 24, 2016

To Appreciate Christmas, Read The Quran

I want to expand on Steve's recent post about competing miracle claims. One way to falsify the ridiculous skeptical suggestion that Christianity's miracles aren't significantly different than the competing miracles of other belief systems is to set Christianity next to each of its primary competitors, one-by-one, and see how they contrast. Islam, the second largest religion in the world and, in that sense, Christianity's biggest competitor, provides a good illustration. Contrast Jesus' credentials to the lack of credentials for Muhammad. Contrast Biblical prophecy to the Quran's lack of anything comparable and the pathetic nature of Islam's attempts to come up with something comparable. Contrast Muhammad's credibility problems to the credibility of early Christian leaders like Paul and James (former opponents who converted upon eyewitnessing the resurrected Christ and died as martyrs) and Luke (a demonstrably reliable historian who goes into a lot of historical detail in his writings). Contrast the vagueness and lack of historical context, names of individuals, place names, etc. in the Quran to the large amount of such details in the gospels, Acts, Paul's letters, and other Biblical documents. And so on. The idea that the credibility of Christianity and that of Islam are comparable is absurd. The claim that the two are comparable undermines the credibility of the person making the claim.

I referred to how large Christianity and Islam are. Their size doesn't, by itself, prove that either is true. But it is a significant factor that should be taken into account. The fact that Christianity is the largest religious movement in the history of the world gives it a lot of plausibility as a candidate for a Divinely-revealed religion, more than any of its competitors. The vast majority of Christianity's competitors down through the centuries either don't exist any longer or are far smaller. The largeness of Christianity takes on even more significance when you consider how the religion's growth was so unlikely and fulfills some unusual prophecies. I wrote about this subject several years ago in a couple of posts at Christmastime (here and here). The opening of Isaiah's Suffering Servant prophecy (52:13-5) is especially striking. You wouldn't expect a Jewish Messiah to initially be rejected by most of the Jewish people, then become widely accepted among Gentiles, including Gentile rulers. (For more about the Suffering Servant prophecy in general, see here. Not only is Jesus' rejection by the Jewish people and influence on the Gentile world beyond reasonable dispute and something that continues to unfold in modern times, but other aspects of Jesus' life that fulfill the prophecy are also highly evidenced: his crucifixion, the earliness of the belief that his death was intended to make atonement for the sins of others, etc. Isaiah's prophecy is detailed enough to single out Jesus among the billions of people who have lived throughout history.)

You'll have a greater appreciation of Jesus and his prophecy fulfillments at the time of his birth and his other miracles if you contrast them to what we see in Islam and other competitors. The large majority of those competitors are on the ash heap of history while Jesus grows increasingly "great to the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:4).

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