Bible reading plan for September

Each month, we publish a simple Bible Reading Plan. Our hope is that you will increasingly treasure God’s Word, the Bible, and that you will find daily reading to be a great blessing.

Our Bible Reading Plan for September 2018 is now available for download.

Please be encouraged to read along with us.

Your invitation

New to the area? Or a long-time resident? Looking for a church?

We are a Bible-believing church in the heart of Holroyd.

We invite you to visit us this Sunday at 9:30am.

Whatever your church background (or lack of church background), you are most welcome.

Our gatherings are friendly and not too formal.

We meet at 9:30am at 11 Ridge Street, Merrylands West. (Our building is airconditioned.)

Notes from our Moon Landing Lunch – 21 July 2018

Saturday 21st July, 12 noon – 2:00pm
the 49th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon Landing

Whether you came to our Moon Landing Lunch or not, we hope these notes might be helpful.

Did Apollo really happen?

Apollo was a triumph of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Mathematics, plus commitment, determination and great bravery.

But imagine someone said to you,

“It was all a government hoax. The Moonwalks were filmed by Stanley Kubrick at Pinewood Studios in London. Nobody has ever been to the Moon.”

How could you discover the truth? Would it be possible to? How could you establish that Apollo really happened?

(Or, how could you prove it didn’t happen?)

Here are some suggestions for areas of enquiry which could be profitable – 

  • You could interview anyone you could find who claimed to be involved. What do they remember? Do their stories make sense, or do they contradict each other?
  • Are any of them eyewitnesses? Or are the best accounts you can find far-removed from those involved?
  • Are they reliable and trustworthy witnesses?
  • What written evidence is there?
  • And what other records (e.g. photos, film, video, audio) are there to help you evaluate the claims that twelve men walked on the Moon between 1969 and 1972?
  • Are there any artefacts to support the claims? – NASA centers, launch pads, tracking stations (and the remains thereof), flown and unflown hardware, lunar samples, post-Apollo images of landing sites, etc..

Is there other evidence?

  • You could investigate incidental evidence – such as the cloud patterns on Earth visible on photos taken from lunar orbit, and from the surface. These aren’t central to the claims of lunar landings, they are quite incidental – yet they can be compared with weather maps and weather satellite images. This data hadn’t been examined until recently.
  • You could see if there are independent sources which corroborate the claims about Apollo. (e.g., Bochum Radio Observatory in West Germany, and several amateur radio operators claimed to receive and record S-band radio communications from the lunar surface).
  • Were there any hostile witnesses? (e.g. Did the Soviets think it actually happened? If not, did they expose the deception? Did they track the spacecraft?)
  • And do the claims about the lunar landings fit into what we know of the historical and political context of the time?

Once someone does that careful historical research, then debate about whether Apollo ‘happened’ or not moves from the realm of someone’s belief to a question of history.

In the case of Apollo, the evidence is overwhelming. And yet, there are still some people who doggedly claim it is all a hoax.

Their refusal to acknowledge could be described as a religious belief – it’s a belief that has to ignore the evidence.

Even if someone wasn’t there to see it, or to be involved, to know that Apollo ‘happened’ does not require a ‘leap of faith’ – simply a willingness to check the available evidence with an open mind.

It’s a question of history.

Did the New Testament stories of Jesus really happen?

In just the same way, we can approach the claimed events of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

One difference is, of course, that we are unable to speak with participants and eyewitnesses in the first century AD. They are long gone.

However, their testimony has been recorded, in the four Gospels, in the Book of Acts, and in some of the Letters – all in the New Testament. As well, there are very early records which support the claims of the Gospels.

So, we could (and should) use exactly the same kinds of historical tools as someone investigating Apollo.

  • While we cannot now interview anyone who was involved, we can read their written testimonies. Do their stories make sense, or do they contradict each other?
  • Were any of them eyewitnesses? Or are the best accounts you can find far removed from those involved?
  • Are they reliable and trustworthy witnesses?
  • What written evidence is there?
  • And what other records are there to help us evaluate the claims that Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived, taught, was killed, and rose from the dead?
  • Are there any artefacts to support the claims? – inscriptions, coins, ruins of buildings, etc.

Is there other evidence?

  • We could investigate incidental evidence – such as the names of places and people mentioned in the accounts. Are they real places and real people? Are they accurately described? Are the names of people consistent with what we know from other sources? (See some fascinating recent research in this lecture given in Houston in 2011).
  • We could see if there are independent sources which corroborate the claims about Jesus. (e.g. the historians Josephus and Tacitus).
  • Were there any hostile witnesses? (e.g. Religious authorities in Jerusalem – people who rejected claims about Jesus, yet whose comments, nevertheless, give us some information about him.)
  • And do the claims about Jesus fit into what we know of the historical and political context of the time?

Once someone does that careful historical research, then debate about whether Jesus lived, taught, died, and rose from death, moves from the realm of someone’s belief to a question of history.

In the Bible, ‘faith’ is never ‘believing something you know isn’t true’ or ‘believing something despite the evidence’.

No, ‘faith’ (an equivalent English word is ‘trust’) is based on facts, not feelings, not hopes.

Because this is the case, the Bible’s claims about Jesus invite enquiry. Do they stand up to careful scrutiny? Many, many historians believe they do.

If you haven’t seriously investigated these things, may I encourage you, and urge you, to do that.

Why it matters

Does it matter what anyone thinks about Jesus?

If the claims about Jesus do not stand up to the kind of scrutiny I’ve outlined above, then the claim that he is God who has come to save people should be rejected.

However, if it is true, then the implications are massive.

You see, the Bible outlines humankind’s great problem – we are separated from the loving God who made us. We’re separated because we’ve lived our lives our way – rejecting his rightful place in our lives. And that leaves us in a very dangerous position.

Yet, because of his amazing love for us, he sent Jesus to rescue men and women from the consequences of living for themselves.

If someone were to put their trust in Jesus, there is forgiveness, and a new start. And that is really the best news there is!

That’s a very inadequate outline. You can read a better one here.

Some helpful books

A Short Book About Jesus, the Man from Heaven.
by respected Sydney-based Historian Dr. Paul Barnett.
(It is available from Christian Education Publications in Sydney.)

Another excellent book – Gospel Truth by Paul Barnett.

And you can see previews (thanks to Google) of Paul Barnett’s book, Bethlehem to Patmos: The New Testament Story (Revised 2013).

There are many good and helpful books which approach the question of the historicity of the New Testament accounts honestly, but I recommend Dr. Paul Barnett’s books because I’ve read them, and he is a very careful and knowledgeable researcher.

– Colin Mackellar.

The invitation to our Moon Landing Lunch.