Rev. VanBaren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.

“Whom say the people that I am?”

It was Christ Himself who asked the question of His disciples. The answer, recorded in Luke 9:19-20, was, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.”

Through the ages many have sought to answer that question as well — though most do not give the answer of Peter. Who is this “Jesus”? What did He really teach? How many still today believe that He is the Son of God come into our flesh? How many believe that the Word of God, Holy Scripture, speaks infallibly and therefore reliably in answer to this question?

At the time of Resurrection Day, now several months ago, a rather striking thing was observed. The three major weekly news magazines, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, all featured a “picture” of Christ on the cover, and all contained lengthy articles as part of their cover story — all on the same week. It was, of course, “Easter.” This would be the most appropriate time for the appearance of such feature articles — but three at the same time? Although I read only the article in Time, I understand that the contents of the others were similar. The articles in Time were of a nature as to create doubt in the mind of the reader concerning the reliability of the biblical account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Though the article appeared to present “both sides” of the argument, still the preponderance of “evidence” was presented as favorable to those who questioned the biblical accounts.

Another impressive fact is that those in the secular realm implicitly acknowledge through such articles the great importance which Christ has had in the history of the world. The unbeliever may deny the existence of Christ, or question whether an individual called Jesus actually did the miracles reported or whether He truly arose from the dead. But these cannot avoid Him, nor the mention of His Name, nor the consideration of His effect upon the history of this world.

A third fact which one notes is that articles such as these level their attack now at the foundations: the infallible Scriptures and the Christ revealed therein. This is nothing other than the attack of Satan himself, who would seek to destroy the foundation upon which Christianity rests. This surely is another sign of the end of this age. When one intends to destroy a castle, he cleverly seeks to undermine the foundation — not simply shoot at some of its towers.

But what are some of the thoughts expressed in the secular press? What does Time magazine have to say? The heading of its feature article says it all: “The Gospel Truth?”

…There are, after all, four Gospels, whose actual writing, most scholars have come to acknowledge, was done not by the Apostles but by their anonymous followers (or their followers’ followers). Each presented a somewhat different picture of Jesus’ life. The earliest appeared to have been written some 40 years after his Crucifixion. Which was most accurate? Even Luther had a favorite Gospel (John) and appeared to regard the rest as less essential. And starting with the 1835 critique The Life of Jesus by David Friedrich Strauss, apostles of the new scientific method raised additional questions with increasing urgency: Might faith have caused the writers of all four Gospels to embellish on actual fact? Did the politics of the early church cause them to edit or add to Jesus’ story? Which parts of the New Testament were likely to be straight reportage rather than pious myth-making?

Depressingly few, the so-called higher critics found. There are only two or three references to Jesus in six pagan or Jewish sources, providing precious little corroborating data. Even if the standard for authenticity were agreement between the Gospels, there is less of that than one might imagine: the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are just two of several parables that appear in only one version. By 1926, Rudolf Bultmann of Germany’s University of Marburg, the foremost Protestant scholar in the field, threw up his hands: he called for a halt to inquiries regarding the Jesus of history. So unreliable were the Gospel accounts that “we can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus.” He advised good Christian scholars to concentrate on the Jesus of faith. But, as it turns out, they didn’t….

…According to The Five Gospels, only 18% of the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels may have actually been spoken by him. John was eliminated completely; only one sentence in Mark met muster. Of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, the only words in red were “Our Father” and “Love your enemies,” and four other brief sayings.

However, some conservative scholars were also quoted and some good points were made:

Crossan and other liberal Jesus scholars, [Johnson] believed, were exploring avenues “subtly contemptuous of the convictions of faith.” As long as the debate had been quarantined in the corridors of the academy, he had held his peace. The advent of the Jesus Seminar, however, marked a major outbreak of what Johnson considered a dangerous contagion. “Americans generally have an abysmal level of knowledge of the Bible,” he says. “In this world of mass ignorance, to have headlines proclaim that this or that fact about [Jesus] has been declared untrue by supposedly scientific inquiry has the effect of gospel. There is no basis on which most people can counter these authoritative-sounding statements.”

Hosea also declared, thousands of years ago, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). The ignorance of so many about the contents of the Bible leads increasingly to an acceptance of what the “scholars” have to say about it. If there was ever a time that the church with its individual members must be well-grounded upon Scripture, it is today. The attacks against the Bible and the Christ presented in it will only grow in intensity. A clever devil will surely attack foundations, especially when he sees the “lack of knowledge” so evident in the churches (and, perhaps, in our homes?).

High Grain Prices

Farmers, obviously, rejoice in reports of high grain prices. Reports of scarcities have raised those prices. The Denver Post, April 11, 1996, stated:

Not in 20 years has agriculture seen anything like this: record crop prices, booming farm exports, raucous grain markets and farmers planting fence row to fence row.

It’s a volatility that epitomizes the new world of American farming. For the last two decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has overseen a world of chronic overproduction. Now the sudden arrival of scarcity — however temporary — is forcing the USDA to look at the world anew. A review of the department’s arsenal of farm policies shows how much has already changed.

For years, the USDA required farmers to idle farmland. That’s gone under in the new farm law, signed last week. Large government storehouses of grain? They’re gone, too. Grain export subsidies? They’ve been discontinued. And iron-clad conservation programs that idled more land? Glickman altered those, to allow planting on some better-quality cropland….

Another article in the Denver Post, April 13, 1996, warned about the dire consequences of overpopulation in the world with the headline, “Hunger poses peace threat, Wirth says.”

Closing out the 48th annual Conference on World Affairs yesterday, former Colorado Sen. Tim Wirth left participants with a dire warning about global overpopulation.

“In my own lifetime, the world’s population has gone from 2 billion people to 5.6 billion people,” Wirth told his audience at the University of Colorado’s Mackey Auditorium. “And we are scheduled to double again in 35 or 40 years.”

Overpopulation, he said, threatens peace around the world. “Empty stomachs in large cities lead to political instability.”

Well, we’ve heard it all before. Over the past several hundreds of years there have been warnings issued about overpopulation and famines which surely follow. Yet, at the same time, one wonders if these current reports are not different. The U.S. government no longer has large grain surpluses. There is a real possibility of drought — affecting future crops. The world’s population is truly large and rapidly increasing. Are we not hearing the sound of the hooves of the black horse (Rev. 6:5-6) and, closely behind, that of the pale horse (Rev. 6:7-8)? The signs mentioned in Scripture are rapidly being fulfilled. Christ’s return cannot be far behind!