Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Which is better: To mistake Lutherans for Catholics or Evangelicals?

Pastor Peters presents a very salient article today on his blog, Pastoral Meanderings.  This is his point:  Walk into two different LCMS churches in the same town and you may very well worship like a Catholic in one church, and like an evangelical in another.

Is that ok? 

Should orthodox Lutherans be able to walk into any orthodox Lutheran church in the world and find the form of worship to be mostly identical to the form of worship in their home church?  Is diversity a good thing or is it a distraction?  Is it important to keep a "catholic" identity with the ancient Church or are praise bands, visual effects, and pastors preaching in jeans, sitting on bar stools, just a natural adaptation to the culture we live in?

Lastly, which form of service do you think that the Apostle Paul would be most comfortable in, and why?

Read Pastor Peters' article:  here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Where do you go if your LCMS church abandons the Liturgy?

I am a convert to Lutheranism.  I love Lutheranism.  I love it's doctrine and traditions.  But I love historic, catholic Lutheranism, not pseudo-evangelical, contemporary Lutheranism. 

So what would I do if my liturgical, High-Church LCMS church abandoned the liturgy and adopted a contemporary, evangelical style of worship as is the case with all the other LCMS churches in my city?

Let me begin by telling you my story: I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. In my twenties I attended a (Baptistic) non-denominational, evangelical church. In my late twenties I became a social and political liberal and joined the ELCA. I attended church maybe two or three times a year for the next 10-15 years.

I then married a Roman Catholic. Neither of us were big church goers at that time, but we chose to attend the Episcopal church as a compromise where we both could take Holy Communion.

Then I became a father...and everything changed.

I was no longer just responsible for my eternal destination, I was responsible for two beautiful little children. One Sunday in the Episcopal church, one of the gay associate pastors talked about God using the pronoun "she". That was the last straw for me.  I am a very tolerant person, but I did not want to raise my children in that environment. I realized that I could not bring them up in liberal Christianity where anything goes, and the Church believes nothing in particular, other than the Golden Rule.

I decided to check out the local LCMS church, the "right-wingers of Lutheranism", as I learned in the ELCA. The preaching was great, but no communion that Sunday as they only had communion every other Sunday. There was some liturgy, but not a lot. No crucifix, no kneeling, and again, no Sacrament for the nourishment of my soul and the forgiveness of my sins, which I want and need EVERY week!

I and my wife were accustomed to receiving the Sacrament every Sunday, so we passed on the LCMS church and attended the local conservative Anglo-Catholic church. Great liturgy, conservative on social issues, good preaching, nice people...but MAJOR emphasis on the Virgin Mary, much more so than the typical American Roman Catholic Church. The Hail Mary is said during every mass.

So as long as I held my nose while they said the Hail Mary, I was happy.

When our wonderful Anglo-Catholic priest retired, I decided to check out conservative Lutheranism again as I missed (high church) Lutheranism and the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, which had been engrained into my DNA ever since my days as a Baptist.

We visited the same LCMS church which we had visited several years prior.  To our surprise, they had a new pastor with a very different perspective! He had instituted big changes.  Holy Communion was celebrated every service, they used the liturgy in every service, they sang the beautiful old hymns, and they were very high church (even incense!!). 

I love it and feel right at home.

However, my LCMS church is the black sheep of the local LCMS parishes. We are the "Catholics". If my pastor were to leave, we would probably revert to a pseudo-evangelical church just like all the other LCMS churches in the area...and I would leave to return to the Anglo-Catholic church...holding my nose during the Hail Mary.

Oh my goodness. Another orthodox Lutheran converts to Orthodoxy

Read here for the testimony of one LCMS Lutheran who grew tired of the evangelicalism pervading today's confessional Lutheranism and "swam the Bosporus":

A Lutheran converts to the Orthodox Church

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Salvation is not dependent on my Faith

In my discussion with ex-Christians over the last few months, I keep coming upon this common theme:  "I found out about all the 'discrepancies and errors' in the Bible and this caused me to lose my faith.  I no longer believe.  That is why I am no longer a Christian."

What happened here?

I believe it is this:  these one-time believers were somehow confused in thinking that their Christianity, their status as a child of God, was dependent on their faith.  Once they didn't feel the presence of their faith anymore, they abandoned Christ.

Thanks be to God that my salvation is not dependent on my faith!

My salvation is dependent on only one thing:  Jesus Christ!  Jesus Christ accomplished 100% of my salvation.  I contributed nothing, including my faith, my sincere belief, nor a decision to reject sin and accept Christ.  Jesus did all of that for me.  And when the waters of baptism flowed over me, I was made a new creature.  I was made a child of God!

A lack of faith does not invalidate my salvation.  Only an outright rejection of Christ will invalidate my salvation.

So what do I do when I question the presence of faith?  I call out to God, "Help Thou my unbelief!"

Dear friend, if you are feeling down, you are questioning whether you have faith, whether or not you really believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior or in the Resurrection, remind yourself that your salvation is not dependent on you...it is only dependent on Jesus Christ, King of Heaven and Earth, and in your baptism he promised you eternal life!  This is the great blessing of Baptism:  it is an objective act of God, it is not a subjective act of the your heart.

Thanks be to God!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

More Reasons why (many) Lutheran churches have Crucifixes


Copied from LCMS Pastor Paul T. McCain's blog:  Cyberbrethren


Lutheran Mythbusting: The Empty Cross is Lutheran. The Crucifix is Roman Catholic.

by Paul T. McCain

September 14th, 2011



I was reading some comments a person made about what represents Christ’s love best in Lutheranism. He said: “Christ’s love in Lutheranism is represented by the empty Cross…” Ah, no. There’s nothing wrong with a plain cross symbol, but the plain or “empty” cross is not somehow a “Lutheran” symbol, as opposed to the crucifix. In fact, the crucifix enjoys a very long use in Lutheranism. Here’s more information from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s web site.

Q.  Question: Is the use of crucifixes a Roman Catholic practice? Doesn’t the empty cross provide a better symbol for Lutherans? How does the LCMS feel about using a crucifix in church? [Note: A crucifix is a cross with a statue of the crucified Christ on it].

A.  A common misunderstanding among some Lutherans is the opinion that a crucifix, or the use of a crucifix, is a “Roman Catholic” practice. The history of Lutheranism demonstrates that the crucifix was a regular and routine feature of Lutheran worship and devotional life during Luther’s lifetime and during the period of Lutheran Orthdoxy. It was also the case among the founding fathers of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. If you were to visit most of the original congregations of the LCMS here in the United States you would find lovely crucifixes adorning their altars, and in addition, beautiful statues on the altar of Christ and the four evangelists, or other such scenes. There is nothing uniquely Roman Catholic about this.  Many Lutherans and Lutheran congregations use crucifixes. Crucifixes are used in the chapels of both of our seminaries.

Lutheranism has always considered the crucifix to be a powerful reminder of the sacrifice our Lord Jesus made for us and our salvation, on the cross. A crucifix vividly brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s divinely inspired words, “We preach Christ and Him crucified”  (1 Cor. 1:23).

Interestingly enough, while there is certainly nothing “wrong” with an “empty” cross, the practice of using an “empty cross” on a Lutheran congregation’s altar comes more from non-Lutheran sources. At the time of the Reformation there was conflict between Lutherans and Reformed Christians over the proper place of pictures, images, statues and the like in the church. Lutherans stood with historic Christendom in realizing that such art in the church was not wrong, and was a great aid for helping to focus devotional thoughts on the truths of the Word of God, no greater truth can be found that the death of Jesus Christ our Lord for the world’s salvation.

The “empty cross” is not a symbol of Christ’s resurrection, as some say, for the fact is that the cross would have been empty regardless of whether or not Christ had risen from the grave. The point to be kept clear here is that both an “empty cross” and a crucifix, symbolize the same thing: the death of Christ our Lord for the salvation of the world. Many feel that the crucifix symbolizes this truth more clearly and strikingly. That has been the traditional opinion of historic Lutheranism, until the last fifty years, due to the influence we will now mention.

Some Lutherans began to move away from crucifixes during the age of Lutheran Pietism, which rejected much of Lutheran doctrine and consequently many Lutheran worship practices. At the time, Lutheran Pietists, contrary to the clear postion of Luther and the earlier Lutherns, held that symbols such as the crucifix were wrong. This was never the view of historic Lutheranism.  Here in America, Lutherans have always felt a certain pressure to “fit in” with the Reformed Christianity that predominates much of the Protestant church here. Thus, for some Lutherans this meant doing away with things such as crucifixes, and vestments, and other traditional forms of Lutheran worship and piety. It is sad when some Lutherans are made to feel embarrassed about their Lutheranism by members of churches that teach the Word of God in error and who do not share Lutheranism’s clear confession and practice of the full truth of the Word of God.

Lutheranism has always recognized that the use of any symbol (even the empty cross) can become an idolatrous practice, if in any way people are led to believe there is “power in the cross” or that a picture or representation of a cross has some sort of ability, in itself, to bring us into relationship with Christ and His Gospel. Any of God’s good gifts can be turned against Him in this life and become an end in themselves.

Lutherans have never believed that banning or limiting proper artwork in the church is the way to prevent its improper use. Rather, we believe that proper teaching and right use is the best way, and the way that is in keeping with the gift of freedom we have in Christ to use all things to the glory and honor of God. Thus, many Lutherans use and enjoy the crucifix as a meaningful reminder of our Lord’s suffering and death. It might interest you to know that our Synod’s president has a beautiful crucifix adorning the wall of his office, constantly reminding him and visitors to his office of the great love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In short, and this is the most important point of all: there is nothing contrary to God’s Holy Word, or our Lutheran Confessions, about the proper use of the crucifix, just as there is nothing wrong with the proper use of an empty cross, or any other church symbol by which we are reminded of the great things God has done for us. We need to guard against quickly dismissing out of hand practices that we believe are “too Roman Catholic” before we more adequately explore their use and history in our own church.

In Christian freedom, we use either the crucifix or an empty cross and should not judge or condemn one another for using either nor not using either symbol of our Lord’s sacrifice for our sins.

Here are quotes from Martin Luther on crucifixes, images and making the sign of the cross:

The custom of holding a crucifix before a dying person has kept many in the Christian faith and has enabled them to die with a confident faith in the crucified Christ.

(Sermons on John, Chapters 1-4, 1539; LW, Vol. XXII, 147)

It was a good practice to hold a wooden crucifix before the eyes of the dying or to press it into their hands. This brought the suffering and death of Christ to mind and comforted the dying. But the others, who haughtily relied on their good works, entered a heaven that contained a sizzling fire. For they were drawn away from Christ and failed to impress His life-giving passion and death upon their hearts.

(Sermons on John, Chapters 6-8, 1532; LW, Vol. XXIII, 360)

[W]hen I hear of Christ, an image of a man hanging on a cross takes form in my heart, just as the reflection of my face naturally appears in the water when I look into it. If it is not a sin but good to have an image of Christ in my heart, why should it be a sin to have it in my eyes?

(Against the Heavenly Prophets, 1525; LW, Vol. 40, 99-100)

IMAGES AND STATUES OF SAINTS

Now we do not request more than that one permit us to regard a crucifix or a saint’s image as a witness, for remembrance, as a sign as that image of Caesar was. Should it not be as possible for us without sin to have a crucifix or an image of Mary, as it was for the Jews and Christ himself to have an image of Caesar who, pagan and now dead, belonged to the devil? Indeed the Caesar had coined his image to glorify himself. However, we seek neither to receive nor give honor in this matter, and are yet so strongly condemned, while Christ’s possession of such an abominable and shameful image remains uncondemned.

(Against the Heavenly Prophets, 1525; LW, Vol. 40, 96)

And I say at the outset that according to the law of Moses no other images are forbidden than an image of God which one worships. A crucifix, on the other hand, or any other holy image is not forbidden.

(Ibid., 85-86)

Where however images or statues are made without idolatry, then such making of them is not forbidden.

[M]y image breakers must also let me keep, wear, and look at a crucifix or a Madonna . . . as long as I do not worship them, but only have them as memorials.

(Ibid., 86, 88)

But images for memorial and witness, such as crucifixes and images of saints, are to be tolerated . . . And they are not only to be tolerated, but for the sake of the memorial and the witness they are praiseworthy and honorable . . .

(Ibid., 91)

SIGN OF THE CROSS

Morning Prayer

In the morning, when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen . . .

In the evening, when you go to bed, make the sign of the holy cross and say:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

(Small Catechism, 1529, Section II: How the Head of the Family Should Teach His Household to Pray Morning and Evening, 22-23)

Thus has originated and continued among us the custom of saying grace and returning thanks at meals, and other prayers for both morning and evening. From the same source came the practice with children of crossing themselves in sight or hearing of terrifying occurrences . . . .

(Large Catechism, 1529, The Second Commandment, section 31, p. 57)

If the devil puts it into your head that you lack the holiness, piety, and worthiness of David and for this reason cannot be sure that God will hear you, make the sign of the cross, and say to yourself: “Let those be pious and worthy who will! I know for a certainty that I am a creature of the same God who made David. And David, regardless of his holiness, has no better or greater God than I have.”

(Psalm 118, LW, Vol. XIV, 61)

If you should have a poltergeist and tapping spirit in your house, do not go and discuss it here and there, but know that it is not a good spirit which has not come from God. Cross yourself quietly and trust in your faith.

(Sermon for the Festival of the Epiphany, LW, Vol. 52, 178-79)

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Large Catechism, 1529, translated by John Nicholas Lenker, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1935.

Luther’s Works (LW), American edition, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (volumes 1-30) and Helmut T. Lehmann (volumes 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (volumes 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (volumes 31-55), 1955.

Small Catechism, 1529, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1943.

Should we tell ex-Christians that they are going to hell?

A fellow reader on another blog asked me this question:  "I am a former believer, a former Christian.  Do you believe that I and other ex-Christians who no longer believe in Jesus as our Savior will go to hell?"

My response:

I still believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. If I stop believing that I will stop being orthodox. And if I stop being orthodox, I will stop being Christian. Liberal Christianity is just to wishy-washy for me.

So will I go up to people on the street, or go onto the blogs of other people on the internet, and tell them that they are going to hell unless they repent and return to Jesus?
 
No.

I intend to share my beliefs in a much different way. I will share my beliefs by my actions: love, forgiveness, and compassion. I'm not going to beat anyone over the head with "hell-fire and damnation".

If someone asks me about my beliefs and specifically about what happens to persons who reject Christ, I will tell them what I believe that the Bible says. But if someone asks me, "Do you think that I, Bob, and Jane are going to hell because we are not believers in Jesus?" I will say, "Your eternal destination is known only to God. I am not going to venture a guess. God offers you the free gift of eternal life. Call out to God and he will give it to you, even if you can't say for sure that you believe."

So how can someone do that who has read all of Bart Ehrman's books and no longer believes that the Resurrection really occurred? How can someone believe who has seen all the evidence that "proves" that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions?

I would tell that person, "Do you want to believe? If so, that is enough. Pray to God to help your unbelief...and stop reading Bart Ehrman." The more a person listens to people telling them that they are wrong, the more likely that person is to finally believe them.

I know that Christians will think that this analogy is horrible but I think it is true: Believe in a resurrected Jesus with the same evidence that a child believes in Santa Claus. Believe because you WANT TO, not because of the evidence.

Christianity is silly foolishness, plain and simple. It is based on the supernatural. In today's science-based culture, such a supernatural belief system is no different than believing in Santa Claus.

I choose to believe, not based on evidence, but just because I want to.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Secular Media touting Bart Ehrman at Easter

I can't get away from Bart Ehrman!

I was surfing online on Yahoo today when I came across an article about the lack of evidence of the Empty Tomb.  I didn't look at the name of the author when I started reading. When I got to about the third paragraph, I said to myself:  "WHO is writing this stuff??"  I scrolled up and who was it:  Yep, Bart Ehrman!

Isn't sad that the secular media can't show a little respect for the Christian Faith during our most Holy Days of the year?  Why not present articles by us regarding our beliefs instead of articles by those who attack our beliefs?

But...controversy sells, doesn't it?

Here is the comment that I left below this Yahoo article:


I've read three of Bart Ehrman's books.  If you are a fundamentalist or evangelical Christian the facts that he presents can really rock your Christian Faith.  I almost stopped believing after reading his books.  But here is why I still believe in a physical resurrection of a truly dead Jesus of Nazareth.

1.  Bart Ehrman and all reputable scholars like him believe that Jesus was a real historical person.

2.  Bart Ehrman and all reputable scholars believe that Saul of Tarus, Paul, was a real historical person.

3.  Bart Ehrman and all reputable scholars believe that Paul was a reliable person.  He was not a liar or fabricator of facts.

4.  Bart Ehrman and all reputable scholars believe that Paul wrote I Corinthians.

5.  In I Corinthians Paul says that he "saw" Jesus.  He mentions that several other persons whom Paul personally knew and spent time with had also seen Jesus.  Paul also says that 500 persons saw Jesus all at the same time, and that he personally knows that many of these 500 persons are still living at the time he wrote I Corinthians.
 
6.  In none of these "sightings" does Paul talk about "dreams", "visions", etc.  Paul said "Have I not SEEN him?"

Summary:  All agree that Paul was a real man, that his testimony was trustworthy, that he met with Peter, Jesus's chief disciple and with James, Jesus's brother, that he said he "saw" Jesus, and that he knew many other persons who said they saw him too.
 
-Liar?  No.

-Lunatic?  Doubtful.

-He only saw a vision, not a real person?  No indication that Paul believed this.

-A supernatural miracle happened:  a dead man came back to life after being dead for three days?  Yes, it is the least likely, as Ehrman says, of all possible explanations according to human reason, logic and the rules of science.  However, it was enough evidence to change the mind of an educated, devout, orthodox Jew like Paul.

Paul's testimony convinces me.

The Tomb was Empty

The Christian Faith is exactly that...faith.  If you need concrete evidence to believe in the Resurrection, I can save you some time and effort.  There is none.

Faith is not something that you achieve by studying the evidence or lack thereof.  Faith is a gift from God, a supernatural being, whose existence cannot be proven.  You either have faith or you don't, its that simple.  God has either given it to you or he hasn't.

I know that sounds like ignorant, uneducated, nonsense.  But even the Christian Holy Book, the Bible, says that the Christian Faith will appear as foolishness to nonbelievers.

The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be proven, but neither can it be disproven...the body has never been found.
 
The tomb was empty. 

Thanks be to God!

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Reasons Lutherans have Crucifixes

On this Holy day in which we remember the death on the cross of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Lutherans are reminded by LCMS Pastor Tim Rossow why we have (or should have) crucifixes in our churches (and our homes). 

Copied from:  BJS

 Another Reason to Have the Corpus on the Cross

April 18th, 2014 Post by
The Processional Cross at Bethany Lutheran, Naperville
The Processional Cross at Bethany Lutheran, Naperville

We have all heard it from our protestant friends and sometimes even from our Lutheran acquaintances – “Why do you have Jesus on the cross, that is so Catholic? That is so negative. We believe in the resurrected Jesus so we have empty crosses.” That last phrase is quite profound. They do indeed have empty crosses.

I and the other two pastors here at Bethany Lutheran Church and School, Naperville, Illinois, have taken to pointing to the processional cross during the sermons when we speak of Christ crucified for our sins. In some sermons that can be as many as three or four times. Because Christ on the cross serves as a helpful homiletical illustration is another good reason to fill our crosses up with the corpus of Christ. This is a fitting matter to consider on this most holy and good day of the church year.
 
The main reason we have Christ on our crosses is for theological reasons. These theological reasons are both positive and negative.

 Here are a few positive reasons.
  1. The Bible says we preach Christ crucified (I Cor. 1:23). Therefore, good church art which is to reflect what we preach and teach has Christ on the cross being crucified for our sins.
  2. The heart and core of the faith is the forgiveness of sins and that forgiveness takes place on the cross. It is there that Jesus says “It is finished.”
  3. The resurrection from the dead is a vital teaching and cannot be separated from the crucifixion but it must always be remembered that death is a by-product of sin and sin was paid for on the cross. Paul says in I Corinthians 15:56 that the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. Both sin and the law are put to death in Jesus body on the cross.

Here are a couple of negative reasons.
  1. Leaving Jesus off the cross is a theology of glory. The theology of glory is a Calvinist invention preferred by the Methabapticosals. It takes the emphasis off the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins and puts it on the triumphal Jesus who leads us to morally upright and effective lives.
  2. Leaving Jesus off the cross diminishes the significance of the sacraments of Holy Absolution and Holy Communion because the pastor is not seen as a mouthpiece of forgiveness nor an administrator of the body and blood of Christ but as a life coach exhorting believers on to glorified resurrection living.
  3. Leaving Jesus off the cross supports the erroneous theology of “church growth.” This faulty theology is reflected in sermon series on the purpose driven life (individual purpose is not a scriptural category), money management tactics (the Bible says very little about personal money management – the parables on money are about the Gospel, not the proper use of money) and good parenting skills (the Bible says very little about proper parenting).
Following in the footsteps of St. Pau, true Confessional Christians proudly placard Jesus Christ crucified (Galatians 3:1).

We have numerous crucifixes throughout our church and school but recently I noticed that while teaching adult confirmation in our conference room I kept reaching to point to the corpus and was frustrated because we did not have a crucifix in there. We recently did the work to get one there and in all the rooms of the church and school where we teach the Gospel so that we can clearly preach Christ crucified.

May God bless your Good Friday devotion that your eyes may be fixed more securely on Christ crucified that you may know for sure that your sins are forgiven.

Lord, I want to believe, help Thou my unbelief!

If you follow this blog, you know that over the last month or so I have been engaged in an ongoing discussion with several ex-Christians turned atheists.  This conversation started when I went onto the blog of one of these atheists in an attempt to share the Gospel with him.  Boy, was I in for a rude surprise!

This former fundamentalist pastor, now avowed atheist and blogger, tore into me like a grizzly would a spring lamb.  He knew his stuff!  He and other atheists pointed out things about the Bible and Christianity that I had never heard of.  My faith was really shaken.  I began to ask myself, "Am I following a myth, no different from the Greek myths of the ancient world?  Is my God no more real than Zeus??"

I came very, very close to walking away from Christianity.

But something in me (hopefully God) just wouldn't let me do it.  I still believe.  But my belief in a resurrected Jesus of Nazareth, as King of Heaven and Earth, is based on much more limited "evidence" than what I would have given in the past.  My beliefs are now based on:   child-like faith...and the testimony of Saul of Tarsus.

Below is a comment I left on the blog of my online friend, Dagood, a former evangelical Christian, turned atheist.  I had asked him for some references to support his belief that Saul of Tarsus only had a vision of Jesus, not a true face to face encounter with a living, breathing being.  He was kind enough to give me that information.  But as I read his reading recommendations, I could hear a voice inside me asking this question, "Do you REALLY want to read this information?  Do you really want to lose your faith, just as Dagood did, by reading all this atheist literature?"

The more you read and listen to persons telling you why you are wrong, the greater the chance that you may one day believe them.  Here was my response to Dagood's reading recommendations:



The issue is this: I WANT to believe. So the more I read authors who tell me why I shouldn't, the more of that innocent (foolish?) childish faith I grew up with will fade away. I'm afraid of becoming you, Dagood.  I don't want to wake up one morning and look in the bathroom mirror, as you did, and realize that I no longer believe; not because I want to stop believing, as you did not want to stop believing, but because the "evidence" has convinced me otherwise.

I have decided to desperately hold on to the following evidence to retain my Christian Faith:

1. Paul was a real person and a credible witness. All scholars agree on that.
2. Paul was a devout, very educated Jew. Devout, very educated Jews rarely ever convert to Christianity. Possible? Yes. Probable? No.
3. In his own writings in I Corinthians, a book which all scholars agree is Paul's, he states that he "saw" Jesus. He doesn't say he had a dream. He doesn't say that he saw Jesus in a cloud formation. He says that Jesus appeared to him, that he "saw" him, and we can safely assume from other Pauline statements that "Jesus" spoke to him, telling him that he was to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.
4. Paul met with Peter, Jesus's closest disciple, and with James, Jesus' brother. No indication is given that either one questioned Paul's truthfulness.
5. Paul states that many of the five hundred who saw Jesus at the same (moment in) time (after his public execution) are still living. He does not say this as hearsay, as the previous information, but as a statement of what he knew as fact, during the same period of time that he was writing I Corinthians.
6. Paul, an educated, orthodox, Jewish leader and teacher, was willing to be beaten, persecuted, and eventually executed for his belief that an illiterate, Galilean peasant, executed as a common criminal, and hung on a tree to be cursed by God, was the Jewish messiah, was resurrected from the dead, and is the Lord God of heaven and earth.

I choose to believe the testimony of this one devout Jew.

Thank you, Dagood, for your patience with me.  I am not sorry that I "met" you. Yes, you and Bruce really shook my faith, but I believe that I have come out the other side of this "crises" with my faith strengthened.

I wish you the very best, my friend.

Has this blog changed your views on the Christian faith?