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Thursday, April 01, 2004

UPDATE APRIL 2004

Did Mark write "the Gospel of Mark"? If he did, or did not, so what? Two sincere people on two different continents raised these very questions. An American emailed us this puzzle: "Most people that I have spoken with agree that the Gospels (excluding Luke) were written around 60-70 A.D. by people who had heard the personal accounts of the disciples and of Jesus, but not by the disciples themselves. The society around that time was one of oral tradition, but many years after Jesus' death, the people telling these stories began dying out; and so people decided they would do well to start writing this stuff down, before it disappeared forever."
Later, when we discussed this position with an Italian believer, he posed this skeptical challenge: "Do you really think it is important to know whether Mark wrote Mark? Is it not, rather, more important to experience the life described in the Gospel we call "Mark"?" For him, knowing whether "Mark wrote the book bearing his name" would make no difference, since, as he put it, "the ethical force of the Bible is a good one to follow." We countered by asking by what objective tests we may decide the validity of the Bible's ethics. The pragmatic success of such ethics may one day suffer defeat, if they are not solidly grounded in eternal truth. Other standards, too, are subjective, coming out of one's own philosophical position. Everyone needs to know where the Bible comes from, and know why we believe this.
Usually, most objections at this level represent an unreasonable personal philosophy: "Anything that sounds like 'supernatural', science is determined to reject, and so do I!" So, we try to bring the believers who talk like this, back to the cross and the open tomb, because this great supernatural fact lies at the basis of all they claim to believe as Christians. Once they accepted the resurrection of Jesus as a historic fact, their anti-supernatural prejudice is compromised, and they simply don't recognize it.
Sadly, such people do not realize that their reasoning proposes a false choice: "We may have EITHER a divinely authenticated Bible OR, failing that, we can still follow its ethics." In reality, we can have BOTH the ethical power of Scripture AND know where God intervened in history to guarantee the source of that power in Scripture.
How would you deal with these questions? We provided them some historical data that reveal the philosophical mindset at the basis of the fundamental unbelief that keeps people from seeing what God has done, when He gave us the well-based Bible that we have.
How we thank the Lord for our Ozark Bible college training that gave us solid preparation to deal with problems like this! Apologetics is alive and well in Italy, for which we make "no apology." Pray with us that the dear people caught in the web of skepticism may believe and be liberated to free others!