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Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you 'The Titanic' is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he's...
As I entered adolescence, I renounced the Christian faith, and for a season professed to be an atheist, albeit a sometimes, somewhat superstitious atheist. Inasmuch as my voice changed and I shot up over six feet tall around the age of twelve, I could pass for being older than I was. By the age of fourteen I would be the one who would go into the store to buy the beer before school, and I sometimes carried a bottle of whiskey in my book sack. I not only regularly got drunk; I was immoral, very rebellious and very, very unhappy. In April of 1964, while drunk, I tried to kill myself. Looking back, I realize it was the stunt of a very angry young man. But I also realize that the night before I tried to do this, I had offered my soul to Satan -- remember, I was a "somewhat superstitious atheist" and besides that, nobody is ever actually, fully an atheist -- but I shudder to think that Satan almost collected on the bargain.
My whole life changed in less than one hour on a Friday night. On September 4, 1964, I met Jesus Christ, and he set me free. I've had many ups and downs since then. I don't yet have total victory over every sin, and I sometimes have to deal with doubt and discouragement, just like most people. But everything changed that Friday night on my Damascus Road. Since then I have never not known his presence. Since that event, I have regularly talked to other people about Jesus, first to my classmates, then to a larger circle of people. Living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina afforded me the opportunity of walking down the Boardwalk near the Pavilion, striking up conversations with strangers and working those conversations around to Jesus. Some walked off. Some were offended. Some asked questions I couldn't answer. And some people did come to Christ. But those questions I couldn't answer drove me to seek the insights of older Christians, as well as to study for myself. Along the way, I even started taking a correspondence course in New Testament Greek from Emmaus Bible College. Before I went off to college, I had talked to so many people that I had begun to draw conclusions about evangelism and unbelievers. I found that nothing could disprove my newly found faith in Jesus Christ, but I also concluded that people ultimately believe what they want to believe, and they make the facts fit into their systems of thought, even though most people do this rather naively.
Once I met Jesus, my ambitions changed. Instead of going to the Citadel and majoring in political science, I decided to go to Bob Jones University -- nobody in my family was happy about this -- we've been solidly Presbyterian since at least the seventeenth century, and my Huguenot ancestors settled in Charleston, South Carolina shortly after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes back in 1685 -- but my parents did give their reluctant consent, and I went. I am grateful for Bob Jones for many things, not the least of which was meeting the woman who would later become my wife. I did eventually ask my parents to withdraw me and enroll me in Presbyterian College, and they were ecstatic. P.C. was quite different in many ways from B.J.U. Its religion department was dominated by people who sought to undermine the Christian faith of their students. One Presbyterian minister on the faculty, a distant cousin of mine, was probably not far from being an atheist. I wasn't in the classroom with him when he said it, but on one occasion, he accidentally dropped his Bible and said, "G_d d__n it." He offered no apology; rather he took it a step further and said, "See, no bolt of lightning hit me."
Most of the students I hung out with were either agnostics or professing atheists -- P.C. had fraternities, and enrolling there half way through college left me outside the circle of the "Greeks," where lots of people got drunk and tried to score with women -- Jesus had set me free from the desire to get drunk, and I had become engaged just prior to starting at P.C. Most of the "Greeks" wouldn't give me the time of day when I sought to do evangelism, so I did most of my talking to the "Independents." However, virtually everybody pretty much agreed P.C. was a great place to lose your faith. I never did. Nor did I ever discover one fact to disprove the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ or his resurrection from the dead. But during the course of getting a degree with a double major in philosophy and religion, I did conclude that I could not prove the Christian Faith or even the existence of God to anyone who wasn't open to the truth. I came to realize that faith, whether it is faith in one's atheism, deism or theism, is never simply a matter of pure reason, but it is always a matter of the will and is always affected by one's emotions and past experiences. But, as I said, that was a conclusion I had reached before I ever went off to college. People profess to be atheists because they want to be atheists, just as people profess faith in Allah or Jesus because of something more than an objective analysis of brute facts. The difference between atheists and others is that all atheists are haunted by an a priori, intuitive, instinctive awareness of the existence of the true God. But as with an older woman who was molested by her uncle when she was a child, this knowledge lies locked away, buried deep within, and any effort to bring it up is met with great resistance. Atheism begins with a lie, and there are no atheists who deal with the relevant facts objectively, much less any who present those facts with neutrality.
The Bones of Jesus:
Jesus never was the name of God, or even a name of unusual significance prior to the expansion of Christianity. Like many other Jewish names, it is a compound of more than one Hebrew word. And many of these common names contained a reference to God: Elijah, "My God is Yahweh"; Gabriel, "God is my Hero"; and Michael, "Who is like God." The name Jesus combines God's proper name with the Hebrew word for deliverance: "Yahweh is Salvation," a fitting name for someone used by God to rescue the people of Israel, like Joshua the son of Nun, the man who led the conquest of Canaan. The name Jesus is simply the very, very common Jewish name Joshua. In Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, there is absolutely no difference in the two words. Two thousand years ago, Jesuses were everywhere in the territory the Romans came to call Syria Palaestina. While it is not as common as our English name John, Joshua, along with Joseph, Judah and Mary were extremely common names in the first century of the Christian era among the Jews. Afterall, if people don't name their children after family members, they tend to name them for their cultural heroes. Louisiana is filled with older people named Huey, after its most beloved governor, Huey P. Long, and Osama became a popular name among Muslims after September 11, 2001. Joshua, Judah and Joseph were all great heroes to the Jews, just as was Miriam -- Mary, the sister of Moses, led the women of Israel in dancing with tambourines after Yahweh drowned a good portion of the Egyptian army.
The idea that Hollywood film promoter, James Cameron has found the resting place of the bones of Jesus of Nazareth simply because the letters of this very common Jewish name were scratched into an ossuary near other ossuaries with other very popular Jewish names is as likely as my coming on a cemetery with only first names on the graves and concluding that I've found the Massachusetts Kennedy clan stashed here in Louisiana because I have found a John, Robert and Joseph. This is such a crack-pot idea that the only educated people who are taking it seriously are those who hate Jesus of Nazareth. Afterall, Jesus of Nazareth is dealt with pretty much as no other character in history: generally, he is either devoutly loved or passionately hated, and New Testament scholars line up on both sides of this divide emotionally.
The Extant, Objective Historical Record:
We often look at historical events through lens formed in the twentieth century . . . continued in part 2.