Category Archives: Writers and the like

Writing Character Bios

Exercise:  Write a short bio for one of your lessor characters

Bio of Marie Marisol

How do you want readers to feel about the character?  Are they to have favorable or unfavorable feelings?  Will they like the character?  Will they be able to relate to her?  Probably if the character behaves in a manner that is consistent.  A bio can help guide you in how your character would perform in various situations.  What she will say and do.  So when you need something to happen in your story you know which character is most appropriate to assign that role to, because of their bio.

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Marie Marisol was born in Windsor, Canada.  Her father was a former French Canadian hockey player who worked as an equipment manager for the Detroit Red Wings professional hockey franchise.  Her mother’s family was a minority owner of the team.  Marie inherited her parents’ passion for sport and was an all-city athlete in high school.  She was on the fencing team at Wayne State University and competed for Canada in the Olympic Games.  Marisol has a PhD in Native American Studies from UC Davis.  Before becoming the college chancellor she headed the Center of Teaching Excellence at Stanford University.  A passionate animal lover, she has a standard poodle she brings to work with her.

 

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Picture Your Novel

In this exercise you will indulge your imagery with a concept design for your novel cover.

Do you have talent?  Use it to create your graphic.

Otherwise you can find a photo and use magazine print cutouts to tape over your image.

Display your final product.

Having this vision cast in front of you is useful as inspiration for you to keep writing.

And always remember to enjoy the process.

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A Procreate drawing 

 

Bathsheba wants to write #metoo – Writers Resist

Her husband enlisted: eager to fight,
eager to serve. She was a good wife,
accepted this. She could argue, but why
fight? The last night the sun set pale
in their wine by the garden. The last
kiss was fragile—lips thin and chapped
with goodbyes. In his absence, she bathed
behind a wickerwork screen, enjoyed
the iridescent rainbows of shampoo bubbles,
the way soft light manicured her nails,
the curl of toes beneath hot water,
the volume of hair as humidity twirled
fingers around her loose locks.
— Read on www.writersresist.com/2018/06/14/bathsheba-wants-to-write-metoo/

Imagine Your Writing

Rachel Federman has a poem based exercise called Imagine Your Sky-house.

For more about Rachel Federman and her advice for writers go to http://rachelfederman.com

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Writing My Sky-house

 

I live in a Redwood tree. Five foot thick branches extend out from the trunk I call the hearth. Like the spokes of an octagon shaped wheel, each branch leads to a different room.  Looking east you’ll find the sleeping room, the first room of the day. To the right of the sleeping room you encounter the open air shower room where water cascades down in a soothing massage of rainfall.  Follow your nose southward into the cooking room where you smell the aroma of fresh fruits, berries, nuts and vegetables being prepared. Just across the way sits the dining room, glancing down you notice a brilliant sheen glistening off the surface of  a hardwood table carved from a log.

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Head west where the drawing-room awaits.  Complete with musical instruments, a fully stocked bar, card table, billiards suite, portable table tennis, hand sculpted built-in chess table, sunken sitting area for tea, and a lounge. Off the drawing-room is the play room equipped with a working stage.  A vast library of play scripts bookend the stage.  Yoga mats are rolled against the far wall.  Near at hand is a rack with jump ropes, carved wood weights, display shelves of jigsaw puzzles, a standing desk with sketch paper, pencils, ink, fountain pens, paint, brushes, and an array of canvas materials. Two adjacent doors stand behind you.  One is labeled darkroom and the other ceramic studio.  The north branch leads to the entry room, access to all available transportation. Between the entry room and the sleeping room is a parlor, where there is a writing desk and a sofa surrounded by bookshelves.

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There are massive skylights in the ceilings with rolling shades. Fine wood furnishings highlight polished hardwood floors. The walls have rich wood panelling of course. Portal shaped windows are positioned in such a fashion to create enough natural lighting throughout the day.

Outside you can see birdhouses above and below. The patio has swings, hammocks and a small yard. There is a launchpad and a zip line for ferrying to lower elevations.

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As you walk through the house it seems heavenly. A natural aura emanates from the walls as you examine the layout. The northeast wing is quite restful, and you close heavy eyelids, unable to resist sampling a pleasant dreamscape.  A peaceful air dominates the southeastern portion of the house.  You hear harmonious chords being struck as a fresh breeze blows through the west windows, perfumed by forest blossoms.  You can’t seem to shake the almost prophetic sense of deja-vu when you find yourself in the entryway, not remembering how you arrived there.

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Standing at the outer edges and looking down, the view is majestic. Lake Tranquil is separated from a lazy river by an earthen dam. Below the river is a steep plummit called the Everlasting Falls. Once the pool of falling water settles, the path heads into a steam of rolling rapids that disappear into a lush forest I call The Hidden Wood. Completely secluded, only the squirrels and birds ever find their way to my front door.

Try creating by writing your sky-house.  Or pick another imaginary place.

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Poem by Mary Oliver

Beside the Waterfall

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Source:  The August 1993 edition of Poetry, a JSTOR publication with the Poetry Foundation poetryfoundation.org

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5 Ways to Add Tension to Your Story

5 Ways to add tension to my story

Here I want to examine specific ideas which would fit seamlessly into my story. I should do a close reading and determine which additions would be consistent with the themes I have built. How well can these be woven into the overall plot of the story? Do they help build towards a climax or move the story along constructively in other ways? Another use for this practice is to find the right amount of tension. Are you satisfied with the level of tension in your story? By adding and removing you can make adjustments here and there until it tastes just right.

Take one of your stories and try this technique too. Did it help? Do you have a similar technique that works for you?

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1. Competition

My protagonist ‘John’ is attracted to a woman. By adding another character to compete with him for her attention I could introduce tension. How does John feel about the idea of losing her? How does John react to what the other person does and says? How does his behavior change because of the presence of competition? Alternatively, does the woman have a job or a family member whom John has to compete with? Would that create guilty feelings in John for wondering if he is being selfish?

2. Work Stress

John has an important position at work. I might have something bad happen on the job. Perhaps an accident occurs where John has to split his attention from his current assignment to help out. Someone could file a complaint or lawsuit which would add pressure on John from both that direction and from his superiors as well. How does he handle pressure from his boss? What are the consequences to John and others if the lawsuit has merit? How can John solve the situation or prevent it from getting worse?

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3. Family Trouble

John’s sister is his closest living relative. If she is dealing with a medical condition and needs John’s help that could increase demands on him. She might refuse the help or be a difficult patient. She might have a secret that she is keeping from him causing him concern. How does he feel about his sisters actions? Does she have personality traits that get under his skin? Does he fear losing his sister because he is a widow who already suffers from the death of a loved one?

4. Grief

John has been alone since his wife died. He could have an unresolved issue related to her loss. The anniversary of her death, or their marriage might be a source of stress for him. His son might blame John for her death and act out in dangerous ways as a result, forcing John to resolve the conflict. How does he relate to a son who resists his attempts to heal their relationship? What happens when he thinks about his wife and the times they had, does he remember happy times or conflict? Is he struggling with regret?

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5. Personal Flaws

John is not perfect. He makes a mistake or forgets an important event. Now he has to deal with the aftermath. Perhaps he had to choose between two conflicting demands on his time. Why did he make the choice he did? How did having to make that choice affect him? How did the people affected respond to John’s choice? What new challenges does he have to overcome as a result?

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Writing Meditation

5 Things You See

For my practice of mindfulness I completed the exercise of describing five things I observed when I went outside today.

Water

The shimmering surface of a pool of water.  The clear blue hue.  Stained surfaces beneath the water, bleached, rough, and uneven.

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Shadows

Gray Oak leaves blowing in the wind.  Bouncing off the ground.  Waving along a wooden fence.

Hammock

An empty hammock rocking slowly back and forth.  Dozens of pine needles trapped in the white cloth webbing , dotted with dried leaves.

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Lamp

A black oil lamp hanging from a pole.  Rust spots below an empty wick slot, on one side of the base a capless reservoir.  Soiled surfaces along the frame and a dusty glass enclosure.

Wind Chimes

Six silver flutes strung with black string hanging from a stone stamped with “Welcome” in a bed of flowers.  Alongside, two faded tear drop clappers twisted into a line of miniature Christmas lights.

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Do you practice writing meditations?  Does it help you with mindfulness?  Does it benefit your writing?

Book Discussion Day 16: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

Chapter 15 – Conclusion:  the Judge, the Servant King, and the Box Top

Click here for the start of this discussion 

There are two parables in the chapter, the judge and the servant king.  Here is a synopsis of the servant king.80

This is exactly the problem God has in his pursuit of you and me – if he overwhelms us with his power we may not be free to love him) love and power are inversely related).  And even if we retain our freedom, we may not love him but merely love what he gives us.  What can God do?  Here is what the king did:

The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend.  He clothed himself as a beggar and approached her cottage incognito, with a worn cloak fluttering loosely about him.  It was no mere disguise, but a new identity he took on.  He renounced the throne to win her hand.

This is exactly what God did to win you and me!  He descended to the human level – in fact to one of the lowest social levels possible – to that of a servant.  Paul describes Christ’s sacrifice this way in his letter to the Philippians (2:5-8)

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!

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Summary

Here are the answers to the five greatest questions we have.81

1.  Origin: Where did we come from?  We are created beings. Wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God.

2.  Identity: Who are we?  Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are creatures of supreme worth.  We are loved by God and endowed with certain God-given rights and responsibilities.

3.  Meaning: Why are we here?  Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence, but their choice to disobey condemned the human race to punishment in accordance with the infinite justice of God.  Since that time, each of us has confirmed the choice of Adam and Eve through our own disobedience.  We remain fallen state so that we can make free choices that will have implications in eternity.  This temporal life is the choosing ground for the eternal one.  Choices we can make that will bring glory to God, and may bring us eternal rewards, include:

a. Accepting the ransom Jesus paid in order to free us from eternal punishment and welcome us into his eternal presence.

b. Serving as ambassadors for Christ to help others make that same choice, and

c. Learning from our own sufferings to comfort others who suffer, and realizing that our sufferings enhance our own capacity to enjoy eternity.

4.  Morality: How should we live?  Since God first loved us, we should love him and others.  In fact, the “whole duty of man” is to “fear God and keep his commandments”.  This includes making disciples of all nations and enjoying the good things God gives us.

5.  Destiny: Where are we going?  God’s infinite justice demands that he punish our sins, but because of his infinite love he has taken the punishment on himself.  This is the only way he could remain just and still justify sinners.  His gift of salvation from eternal punishment is free to all the world.  It cannot be earned through good works or any kind of merit.  And God wants everyone to be saved from the eternal punishment we all deserve.  But since he cannot force us to love him (forced love is a contradiction), each one of us must choose for ourselves whom we will serve.

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Your Destiny

Whom will you serve?  God leaves that choice in your hands.  Love knows no other way.  In order to respect your free choice, God has made the evidence for Christianity convincing but not compelling.  If you want to suppress or ignore the evidence all around you (Romans 1:18-20) – including that which is presented in this book – then you are free to do so.  But that would be a volitional act, not a rational one.  You can reject Christ, but you cannot honestly say there’s not enough evidence to believe in him.82

C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in Hell, choose it.  Without that self-choice there would be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened.”83

Discussion point

What do you think were the author’s best points in the book?  What weak points did you find in the evidence presented in the book?  What would you  consider doing to decide if you agree or disagree with what the book is arguing?

I will continue to read and discuss books like these with an open mind.  I hope you will too.

Romans+1_18-20


80Geisler & Turek page 380 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

81Geisler & Turek pages 383-384 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

82Geisler & Turek pages 384-385 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

83C.S. Lewis page 72 The Great Divorce.

 

 

Book Discussion Day 15: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

 

Book Discussion Day 15: Chapter 14 – What did Jesus Teach About the Bible?

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Jesus gave the following assertions in his teachings

  1. The Old Testament is divinely Authoritative. In 92 occasions Jesus and his apostles supported their position by saying “it is written .”
  2. The Old Testament is Imperishable. Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will be no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
  3. The Old Testament is infallible. John 10:35 :the Scripture cannot be broken.”
  4. The Old Testament is Inerrant. Matthew 22:29 “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
  5. The Old Testament is Historically Reliable. He validated Noah Matthew 24:37-38 and Jonah Matthew 12:40.
  6. The Old Testament is Scientifically Accurate. While adherents of other religions may accept a complete separation from science Christians do not.  Truth about the universe cannot be contradictory.  Since all truth is God’s truth, religious beliefs must agree with scientific facts.
  7. The Old Testament had Ultimate Supremacy. Jesus corrected the Pharisees and the teachers of the law by claiming that they should be obeying the Old Testament Scriptures instead of their own man-made traditions.  Matthew 15:3,678

Jesus promised the New Testament

The 27 books comprise the only authentic record of the apostolic teaching we have. All were written in the first century by eyewitnesses or by those who interviewed eyewitnesses.

Summary:

Jesus taught that the Old Testament is the inerrant Word of God, and he promised that the New Testament would come through the apostles.  The apostles, who were authenticated by miracles, wrote or confirmed 27 books.

Since the Bible is our established standard for truth, anything that contradicts a teaching in the Bible is false.  This means that any specific teaching that contradicts a teaching of the Bible is false.

The evidence revealed indicates79

  • The revelations of Judaism are true, but it is incomplete. It lacks the New Testament
  • The revelation of Islam has some truth. But it errs on some fundamental teachings, including its denial of the deity and resurrection of Christ.
  • Only the revelation of Christianity is the complete, inerrant Word of God.

Could the authors be wrong about all this?  It’s possible. But in light of the evidence, skeptics and those of other faiths need to have a lot more faith than Christians to believe otherwise.

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Discussion point

I think one point worth talking about here is why people willingly choose to reject what the Bible says.  Is it because they have been given false information about the Bible that they allowed to convince them without finding out the truth for themselves?  Is it because they haven’t taken the time to look at the evidence?  Are they afraid of something?  Is it, as the authors have said about atheists, that they know that if they acknowledge that the Bible is true then they no longer can justify being the sole authority on how they choose to live their lives?  If so, is there a danger of them promoting and anti-Christian agenda on an unwitting public in order to influence political debate?

Another topic is related to agnostics.  What should our attitude be towards a person who is questioning and open to the idea of God?


78Geisler & Turek page 357-360 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

79 Geisler & Turek pages 376 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

 

 

 

Book Discussion Day 14: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

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Book Discussion Day 14: Chapter 13 – Who is Jesus:  God?  Or Just a Great Moral Teacher?

 

Chapter 13 outlines the Old Testament prophecies that point to the Messiah and ultimately provide the evidence that Jesus, the only person to ever fulfill the prophecies, is God.

Isaiah 53 has an important prophecy of Jesus.  Isaiah 42 has another description of him.74 

Some of the other Old Testament verses about Jesus include

Genesis 3:15

Genesis 12: 3, 7

Genesis 49:10

Jeremiah 3: 5-6

Isaiah 9:6

Micah 5:2

Malachi 3:1

Daniel 9:26

Isaiah 53:11

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The New Testament writers claimed Jesus was God.

John 1:1, 14

Romans 9:5

Colossians 2:9

2 Peter 1:1

Matthew 1:23

Hebrews 1:3,8

Matthew 8:29

Luke 4:34, 41

 

Jesus himself declares he is God.

Mark 14:61-64

John 8:56-59

 

Jesus refers to himself in a manner that God would.

John 17:5

Revelation 1:17

John 10:11

Matthew 25:31

John 8:12

John 5:21

John 14:6

John 4:42

 

Jesus alluded that he was God in the parables he spoke

Luke 15:4-32

Matthew 19:28-30

Matthew 20:1-16

Matthew 25:1-13

 

Jesus did things that a God would be able to do

He forgave sins Mark 2:5-11

He commanded discipling Matthew 28:18-19

Commanded new law John 13:34

Said to pray in his name John 14:13-14

Allowed people to worship him on at least 9 occasions75

 

Proofs that Jesus is God

  1. He fulfilled messianic prophecies written hundreds of years in advance
  2. He lived a sinless life and performed miraculous deeds
  3. He predicted and then accomplished his own resurrection from the dead

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Skeptics remain

Skeptics complain Jesus wasn’t more overt

They cite and misinterpret Matthew 19:7

They cite John 14:28 and Matthew 24:36 which may confuse them without a thorough understanding of the Trinity.

They object to the Trinity

The authors provide useful insight for the Trinity

Some Muslims charge that the trinity is too complex.  But who said that truth must always be simple?  As C.S. Lewis aptly puts it, “If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier.  But it is not.  We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions.  How could we?  We are dealing with fact.  Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”76

 

Summary:

 

Since Jesus is a morally perfect being – Chapter 7 – then anything he teaches is true.  What did Jesus teach?  What did he teach about the Bible?  Chapter 14 answers this question.

Discussion point

 

The chapter addresses the claim people sometimes make that Jesus was only a man who was a great moral teacher.  The evidence in the New Testament proves that is a false conclusion.  Liar, lunatic, or Lord are the only possible conclusions a person can draw after studying the New Testament.  Have you come across people who said they saw Jesus as a moral teacher but not God?  How did that conversation go?

 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish things that people often say about Him:  “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.”  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would rather be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is , the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.77

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74Geisler & Turek page 333 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

75 Geisler & Turek pages 344-345 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

76Geisler & Turek pages 352-353 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

77Geisler & Turek page 346 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

 

 

 

Book Discussion Day 13: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

Book Discussion Day 13: Chapter 12 – Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?

Chapter 12 exposes how false each of the theories put forth by skeptics to deny the resurrection of Jesus.71

Hallucination Theory

  1. Hallucinations aren’t experienced by groups.  Jesus did not appear just once to one person.  He appeared in a dozen separate occasions in a variety of settings to different people over 40 days.  A total of over 500 people saw Jesus after his resurrection.  The tomb was empty.  No proof of Jesus’ body was shown by those that executed him because they did not have his body, when so many people claimed to see him alive.

They went to the wrong tomb theory

  1. The theory assumes that all of the Jews and Romans had a permanent kind of collective amnesia about what they had done with the body of Jesus.
  2. The theory doesn’t explain the appearances of Jesus. Nor does it explain the empty tomb well.  Most of the disciples were hopeless and fearful still after learning of the empty tomb.  They did not believe that the empty signified that Jesus was alive until they physically saw him and spoke with him.

Swoon or Apparent Death Theory

  1. Everyone believed Jesus was dead
  2. Jesus was embalmed in 75 pounds of bandages and spices. That doesn’t happen to a live person.
  3. It assumes he would survive 36 hours, unwrap himself, move a 4,000-pound rock from the entrance and get past Roman guards.
  4. He would not have appeared to be in good condition when he was seen.
  5. It does not account for Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

The Disciples stole the body theory

  1. Were they hallucinating, or did they steal the body, which is it?
  2. For some inexplicable reason, they stole the body n order to get themselves beaten, tortured, and martyred.

A Substitute Took Jesus’ Place on the Cross Theory

  1. This is a popular Muslim theory. There is absolutely no evidence to back up this theory.
  2. It should be noted that the Qur’an was produced over 600 years after Jesus. The New Testament has eyewitness accounts of what happened with Jesus only a few decades after his death and Resurrection.
  3. So all those eyewitnesses who saw what happened, why do they say it was Jesus?
  4. Why was the tomb found empty?

The Disciples Faith led Their Belief in the Resurrection

  1. There is no evidence for this theory
  2. I does not account for the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to over 500 people.
  3. It ignores the fact that the scared, skeptical disciples were not in any frame of mind to invent a story they would later be put to death for believing. The resurrection appearances gave them their bold faith not the reverse, as this theory claims.

The New Testament Writers Copied Pagan Resurrection Myths

  1. This theory fails to explain the eyewitness accounts at the time.
  2. It does not explain the empty tomb
  3. It does not explain the eyewitnesses who were martyred
  4. It does not explain the testimony of non-Christian writings
  5. It does not explain the facts which the vast majority of the scholars use to conclude the events were believed to have taken place by those who were present at the time.
  6. The ancient non-Christian sources at the time – both Jewish and pagan – understood the resurrection was not a myth and instead argued at the time that they did not believe the accounts happened as Christians described.
  7. There is no myth that is similar to Jesus’ resurrection
  8. The first legitimate parallel story of a god rising from death appears about 100 years after Christianity began.

New Testament Scripture Chart

Skeptics Consistently Demand Evidence from Christians to Support the New Testament

The evidence to support the New Testament has been overwhelming, far exceeding any comparable historically documented event and proves true beyond a reasonable doubt.

Skeptics Have no Evidence to Support any of these Theories that doubt the New Testament

Their refusal to accept the New Testament accounts is based on philosophical bias against them.

How to View the Evidence

  1. The theistic nature of the universe makes miracles possible
  2. Ancient documents say miracles are to be expected
  3. Historically confirmed eyewitness documents say miracles are actual
  4. References of other ancient historians and writers confirm the basic storyline of the New Testament, and several archeological discoveries affirm the details they describe.72

 

Summary: One Solitary Life

Let us turn now to the story. A child is born in an obscure village. He is brought up in another obscure village. He works in a carpenter shop until he is thirty, and then for three brief years is an itinerant preacher, proclaiming a message and living a life. He never writes a book. He never holds an office. He never raises an army. He never has a family of his own. He never owns a home. He never goes to college. He never travels two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his way of life. While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him. One denies him; another betrays him. He is turned over to his enemies. He goes through the mockery of a trial; he is nailed to a cross between two thieves, and when dead is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend.

Those are the facts of his human life. He rises from the dead. Today we look back across nineteen hundred years and ask, What kind of trail has he left across the centuries? When we try to sum up his influence, all the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life…73

Discussion point

It there was no resurrection, how could this life be the most influential life of all time?


71 Geisler & Turek pages 301-312 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

72Geisler & Turek pages 317-319 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

73Geisler & Turek page 324 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

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