Thursday, January 30, 2014

To Dear 'Daddy' - from a grateful mum

It doesn't cost anything to be kind.

Shanell Mouland has a little blonde daughter named Kate. Kate has autism. The two of them were on a flight home.

Shanell knew there would be a stranger sitting next to Kate. A basketball team got on board. Perhaps one of them might sit next to Kate. They passed by. A few grandmotherly figures got on, but they passed by too.

For a moment Shanell thought the seat would be vacant. Then a man with a briefcase sat there. What happened next made her so grateful she wrote him a blog post, addressed to Dear 'Daddy' in Seat 16c.

"I don't know your name but Kate called you 'daddy' for the entire flight last week and you kindly never corrected her. In fact, you didn't even flinch as you could probably tell that she was not confusing you with her own 'daddy' but instead making a judgment regarding your level of 'safety' for her. If she calls you 'daddy' then you better believe she thinks you are alright. . .

"I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: "Hi, Daddy, that's my mom." Then she had you.

"You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that 'smile' that I despise because it means; 'manage your child please.' You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamoured by you that she kept eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about. I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it. . .

"The interaction went on and on and you never once seemed annoyed. She gave you some moments of peace while she played with her Anna and Elsa dolls. Kind of her to save you from playing barbies, but I bet you wouldn't have minded a bit. I bet you have little girls, too. 

"Not long before we landed Kate had reached her limit. She screamed to have her seatbelt off, she screamed for me to open the plane door and she cried repeating, 'Plane is cwosed (closed)' over and over. You tried to redirect her attention to her toys. She was already too far gone at this point, but the fact that you tried to help your new little friend made me emotional. 

"In case you are wondering. She was fine the moment we stepped off the plane. Thank you for letting us go ahead of you. She was feeling overwhelmed and escaping the plane and a big, long hug was all she needed. 

"So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride yet. And thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl."

The blog post attracted 750 comments.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Life and death: A time to remember

Anka Bergman married her husband Bernd in her native Czechoslovakia in 1940.

In 1941 they were both sent to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt. The sexes were segregated, but they managed to meet, and Anka fell pregnant. When her pregnancy was discovered, she was forced to sign a paper agreeing to hand over the baby to the Gestapo when it was born so the baby could be killed.

She gave birth to a son, George. Surprisingly, he wasn't handed over, but died of pneumonia when he was two months old.

Bernd was sent to Auschwitz in 1944. By this time, Anka was pregnant again. She volunteered to go to Auschwitz the day after her husband was moved. She never saw him again. He was shot dead in Auschwitz a week before the camp was liberated by the Red Army.

On her arrival in Auschwitz, her pregnancy was not discovered and she was selected to live by Josef Mengele. Her son George's death saved her life. If she had had her baby, she would have gone straight to the gas chambers.

After 10 days of "hell on earth," she was transported to work in a munitions factory in Germany. After her pregnancy became obvious, she was transported with others for three weeks without food in an open coal truck to the death camp at Mauthausen. When she saw the name, she went into labour.

Anka gave birth to her daughter Eva in a cart filled with people suffering from typhoid. She weighed five stones; her baby weighed about three pounds. Her baby was wrapped in newspaper to try to keep her warm.

She survived for two reasons: the Germans had stopped gassing people and blown up the gas chamber the previous day, and the camp was liberated by the American Army a week later. Strangely, Anka had always believed she would survive the Holocaust.

When she returned to Prague, 15 members of her family had perished. She was taken in by a surviving cousin. After the war, Anka came to Britain with her daughter.

She died last July, aged 96, leaving a daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

● Yesterday/today (Monday evening to Tuesday evening) is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The new face of antisemitism

Antisemitism has a new face. It is no longer politically correct to be an antisemite: antisemitism, after all, is a prejudice against a minority. Even Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, can apparently embrace a Jew and claim that he has nothing against Jews.

But Israelophobia - now, that's a completely different kettle of fish. It is politically acceptable to say that there were always Palestinians, that the Jews stole their land, that historically Jews have never lived in Jerusalem, that the "wall of separation," built to keep out terrorists, is a form of apartheid, that Israel controls US policy, that Israel indiscriminately murders Palestinian children, is a source of disorder for surrounding countries, the cause of dictatorships in the Middle East and the greatest threat to world peace. (All the above statements are untrue.)

Fiamma Nirenstein, former vice-president of the committee on foreign affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and member of the Italian delegation of the Council of Europe, has written an insightful blog on Israelophobia. You can read it here.

She says that according to a German study, 63 per cent of Poles, 48 per cent of Germans, 41 per cent of Britons and 38 per cent of Italians think Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. Fifty-five per cent of Poles and 36 per cent of Germans said "Considering Israel's policy, I can understand why people do not like Israel." 

Is Israelophobia antisemitic? Of course it is.

(Hamad Amar, Druze Speaker of Israel's Knesset, made an interesting statement: "In our whole region consisting of over 350 million Arabs, there are only 1,658,000 Arabs who have complete political and religious freedom and have the right to vote in full democratic elections. It is no coincidence that all of these Arabs live as full and equal citizens of the one Jewish state.")

Israelophobia has become not occasional, but mainstream.

 Says Fiamma Nirenstein: "Past American presidents have always either hinted at, or made plain, a prohibition of the most racist and dangerous aspects of Islam regarding Israel, the Jews, and Christians. Not so with the current US Administration. No one in it has ever said to Iran. . . that it may not consider Israel 'a rotten root that must be destroyed.'

"No one in it has ever told the Palestinians that it is 'not helpful' to repeat every day, especially during negotiations, that Israel is a murderous, racist, genocidal country - a charge most recently levelled by Sa'eb Erekat, the head negotiator of the Palestinian delegation.

"In a word, by seeming to give Islam a free hand in exchange for nothing in return, the current US Administration has allowed the most severe hostile messages, both Israelophobic and otherwise, to spread without caution. Without America standing guard, all non-Muslim countries become fresh prey for their detractors."

What's the answer to Israelophobia just now? I'm not sure that I know. But telling the truth would be a start.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Proposed radical changes to abortion procedure in Britain

Women will be able to have abortions without seeing a doctor and nurses will be able to perform abortions under new draft regulations from the Department of Health.

The proposals are described by opponents as a fundamental change in the practice of abortion in Britain.

They are contained on the Department of Health website in a consultation opened before Christmas with no press notice and no publicity. Many interested parties appeared to be unaware.

The Sexual Health Team of the Department of Health announced last week that they were closing the consultation on January 17, three weeks before the closing date of February 3 advertised on their website. The original closing date was restored only after an 11th-hour intervention by the Government.

Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, says the main beneficiaries were thought to be the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Marie Stopes International. The abortion industry, together with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the BMA and the GMC, had clearly been working very hard behind the scenes to ensure the changes happened as quickly and smoothly as possible.

It was the duty of Parliament to make laws, he said, not abortion providers and not the Department of Health.

The Abortion Act 1967 says abortions can only be performed if two doctors affirm "in good faith" that a request for abortion meets at least one of the grounds in the act. Only a registered medical practitioner (RMP) can perform an abortion.

The proposals are outlined on the Department of Health website in the consultation document and in a second document detailing the proposals.

They say it is not necessary for doctors to see the woman to authorise abortions "in good faith" - nurses can gather the information and doctors can just sign.

"We consider it good practice that one of the two certifying doctors has seen the woman, though this is not a legal requirement."

It appears nurses could be allowed both to carry out surgical abortions and prescribe abortion drugs.

"The RMP is not required personally to perform every action. Certain actions may be undertaken by registered nurses or midwives (who are not RMPs) provided they are fully trained and the provider has agreed protocols in place."

Patients will be allowed to have medically induced abortions at home provided they have taken the drugs at the clinic.

"Both drugs for the medical abortion must. . . be taken in the hospital or approved place. Women may be given the choice to stay on the premises or to go home soon after taking the second tablet to be in the privacy of their own home for the expulsion."

The proposals say babies up to 24 weeks being aborted do not need pain relief because they do not have neural connections to enable them to feel pain - evidently based on a controversial statement by the RCOG.

Jane Ellison, a health minister, admitted that only 46 per cent of women who had abortions in 2012 were seen by a doctor.

Department of Health officials said the new proposed guidelines were simply a clarification of the law, and claimed they strengthened protections by pointing out that it was at the least desirable for a doctor to see the woman.

Individuals and organisations have just nine days to reply to the proposals in the consultation.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The wonder of grace

I have learned a lot about grace in recent years.

You know what grace is. It's God's Riches At Christ's Expense. It's God giving us what we don't deserve. I deserved nothing. He gave me everything.

You may be familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. He told his father he wanted his inheritance now.

This would be terrible to Jewish ears. It was almost like saying you wished your father were dead. His father might have had to sell his estate at a reduced price to someone who would let him live there for the rest of his life. Whatever he needed to do for his son to have his inheritance, he did it. 

Having received his inheritance, the son went off and wasted it on fast living.

Imagine the father in the story was your Heavenly Father. He couldn't do anything until the son repented and came home. Bur He never stopped looking and waiting for the day.

"When he came to himself." That's the turning point in the story. When the prodigal came to himself, he came home. "Father," he said, "I have sinned. . ." But the father wasn't listening. "Get out the best robe and put it on him," he said. "Put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. Kill the fatted calf."

Now I have a lot of sympathy for the older brother. His attitude wasn't right, but what he said might well have been true. "I've been serving you all these years, and I never disobeyed you. But you never gave me a fatted calf."

Note the father's reply. "Son, everything I have is yours. But your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost, and is found."

That's grace.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Killing the Jews

Two weeks ago I wrote a piece about the antisemitic parody on Israel's security wall at St James's Church, Piccadilly, London. This week I was reading a response to the display from the inimitable Dr Denis MacEoin.

What stuck in my mind after I had read his letter to the church was his description in it of two women. The first was a Czech teacher at his old drama school in Belfast. Her name was Helen Lewis (nee Katz). He had heard that she had been imprisoned in a concentration camp, but it wasn't until one day she rolled up her sleeve and he saw the number tattooed on her arm that her plight came home to him.

Her life was saved because she was a professional ballet dancer. The Nazis kept her at Theresienstadt, where they kept dancers, musicians, actors, painters and writers to impress the Red Cross and others with their kindly treatment of inmates, while thousands died behind the scenes. Helen's first husband died in Auschwitz.

It was through her he received a growing concern for Jewish people, and from that, a deep love for the state of Israel.

The second woman, whom he mentioned quite separately, was a young Palestinian woman named Wafa al-Biss. She was badly burned in a domestic fire, and taken to Israel's Soroka Hospital - one of the hospitals where Palestinians receive the most advanced treatment in the world. Discharged after months of treatment, she was given a permit to return as an out patient.

Some time later she headed for the hospital wearing a suicide belt, with the aim of exploding it among the doctors and nurses who had treated her, as well as however many children she could find. She was caught at a checkpoint and imprisoned.

Recently she was released as part of a prisoner release agreement. Within hours she was speaking to Palestinian children, urging them to put on suicide vests and kill as many Jews as possible. 

Women apart, Dr MacEoin's erudite letter is still well worth reading. Read it. You can see it here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Legalising ideology?

The Counsellors and Psychotherapists (Regulation) Bill 2013 - 14 comes up for its second reading in the House of Commons on January 24. It seeks to ban therapists from offering help to people who want to reduce unwanted homosexual feelings in their lives.

While it aims to forbid help being offered to people who do not want to be homosexuals, it allows help for people to become homosexuals. It will deny people the right to choose how to live their own lives. And it appears to be based on homosexuals' insistence that homosexuality is innate and unchangeable, like race. 

Opponents of the therapy say the motivation behind it is homophobic rather than scientific, and that practitioners are not acting in the best interests of the individual. They deny the many accounts of people who have been set free from homosexuality.

Dr Michael Davidson, co-director of Core Issues Trust, claims to have been turned away himself from homosexuality by counselling, prayer and psychotherapy. He writes: "The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) affirms that conversion or reparative therapies 'have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons.'

"The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) warns that 'There is overwhelming evidence that undergoing such therapy is at considerable emotional and psychological cost.'

"The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that therapy to change a client's sexual orientation can be 'deeply damaging'. . . 

"The UKCP claims that there is 'overwhelming evidence [of] considerable emotional and psychological cost' associated with such therapies. Its former chair, Prof Andrew Samuels, however, declined to respond to a request as to where this evidence was to be found. 

"Chief Executive, Mr David Pink, affirmed to us that this question was 'adequately addressed in the drawing up of our guidance,' yet the organisation has offered no such evidence at all. 

"Dr Di Hodgson, Chair of the UKCP's Diversity, Equalities and Social Responsibility Committee, has honestly acknowledged: 'I think there is very conflicting evidence. . . So we have taken a view in a way which is regardless of the scientific findings. We still believe that it is unethical to seek to agree or to work towards changing someone's sexual orientation through psychotherapy.'

"The UKCP says first that there is 'overwhelming evidence;' then declined to specify any evidence; then says there is 'conflicting evidence;' and then that they have taken a position that doesn't require any evidence. This should concern any thinking person."

Says the Rev Andrew Symes, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream: "For centuries in this country it has been accepted that the promotion of the Christian faith so that people are converted to Christ is a good thing. It results in positive change, whereby people generally become more considerate and productive members of society. 

"It has also been generally agreed that stable, loving, heterosexual marriage is a foundational cornerstone for a stable society, and that this necessarily involves encouraging people to overcome natural tendencies to promiscuity, adultery and homosexual practice. 

"Only recently, in the last few years, have these axioms been challenged. Christian conversion has been attacked as 'brainwashing,' or as disruptive to community cohesion especially in multi-faith contexts. And Christian teaching about the sinfulness of sex outside of covenant heterosexual marriage has now been accused of harming the integrity and self-esteem of gay people."

You are asked to contact your MP to  ask him or her to vote against the bill.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The world's largest persecuted minority

Open Doors has published its 2014 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians are the most persecuted. North Korea tops the list for the 12th consecutive year.

Anyone discovered in Christian activity in North Korea, it says, may be subject to arrest, disappearance, torture or even public execution. Between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in horrific prison camps.

Somalia is in second place, with Syria, with its almost three-years-old civil war, third. Others in the top 10 are Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen. Top newcomer to the list is the Central African Republic, where horrific violence has been directed at Christians by the Seleka rebel alliance.

Christians are the largest persecuted minority in the world, with 100 million affected, and persecution is increasing. Islamic extremism is the worst persecutor. The worst area of persecution is in Africa, where a fifth of the world's Christians meet with a seventh of the world's Muslims.

A total of 2,123 Christians were martyred in 2013, compared to 1,201 the previous year. These figures do not include Christians from North Korea, where figures are difficult to obtain.

For further details, see

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Big Brother takes exception

Let me say it again: if you believe that homosexual practice is wrong, you are not allowed to say so in public - and the Christian church appears to be doing nothing about the situation.

Former world heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield is appearing on a programme named Big Brother on Channel 5.  He is believed to be an evangelical Christian. Fellow contestant Luisa Zissman said she thought it was bad that few people speak out about being homosexual in the sports industry.

"I think it's good to be open like that because it's normal."

Said Holyfield: "But that ain't normal. The Bible lets you know there’s wrong, there’s right.”

Zissman said: "That's just the way some people are born."

Holyfield disagreed: "It don't make no difference. If you're born and your leg was turned this way, what do you do? You go to a doctor and get it fixed back right."

The conversation was broadcast. Afterward Holyfield was taken to task by the Big Brother producers.

They told him: "While Big Brother understands these are the views you hold, they aren't the views that are held by a large section of society, and expressing these views will be extremely offensive to many people. Do you understand why?

"Big Brother does not tolerate the use of offensive language and must therefore warn you to consider very carefully the effect expressing such views may have and the harm and offence you may cause by repeating these views inside the house."

Said Brendan O'Neill in his Telegraph blog: "Today, so cavalier have we become about the old Millian ideal of freedom of thought and speech for all – even for those who offend us – that we think nothing of censuring a man simply for expressing a view that is 'not held by many people in society'. . . "

He said the censuring of Holyfield had been done "in the name of tolerance yet it is actually a prime example of intolerance. In the name of promoting society-wide tolerance of homosexuals, we must not tolerate the expression of any criticisms of homosexuality, the anti-Holyfield lobby says.

 "Remarkably, some people think such censuring and punishment of outdated views about women and minorities is a sign that Britain has become more tolerant. Actually it shows the opposite – that Britain is now astonishingly intolerant of anyone who holds the 'wrong' views, views that run counter to mainstream thinking, and it will humiliate them in public if they dare to express themselves and warn them to keep their filthy ideologies to themselves."

This came at the same time as an announcement that the Rev Donald MacInnes, Church of Scotland minister of Gairbraid Church, Maryhill, Glasgow, had been sacked as chaplain of Glasgow Gaelic School.

Mr MacInnes wrote on a Facebook page: "The overwhelming support of our Scottish politicians in creating same-sex marriage is very disappointing. Many of us, myself included, agreed that the creation of civil partnerships was necessary so that individuals suffering from this disorder were not legally penalised in any way because of their sexuality. We can now expect to see the school curriculum changed to the end that our children will be taught this perversion as if it were a good thing."

Some parents saw the comments, and complained to the city council. One parent said she did not wish her children to be exposed to prejudice. Another said the comments were "absolutely disgraceful." 

So much for the clear teaching of the Bible on the subject.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Where murder stalks the streets

Over the past century, Christians have gone from 20 per cent of the population of the Middle East to less than four per cent today.

Syria used to be one of the easiest places in the Arab world to be a Christian, with Christians respected by the Muslim majority. That changed with the outbreak of hostilities in 2011. Tens of thousands of Christians have been displaced from their homes by threats and violence.

Some 450,000 Christians have fled the country. The city of Homs was almost completely cleared of its 50,000 to 60,000 Christians. Houses have been ransacked, and believers kidnapped for ransom or murdered.

The United Nations says at least 126,000 Syrians have been killed since March, 2011.  One commentator says the true figure may be nearer 200,000. According to the BBC, there are believed to be as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters.

Christians throughout Syria are suffering a harsh winter. Many Christians are trapped in Aleppo, where they have been suffering heavy snow and temperatures from minus seven to minus 10 degrees without fuel for heating.

Thirteen nuns seized in Maaloula, as well as two kidnapped archbishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boutros Yazigi, are still held.

In Iraq, before 2003 there were around 1.2 million Christians. Today there are as few as 200,000. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, mostly to other countries. Christians have been robbed, kidnapped and murdered. Migration is constant.

Sunni militants have stepped up attacks across Iraq, while Shia groups began deadly reprisals, raising fears of a return to full-scale sectarian conflict. In 2013, at least 2,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces were killed.

At least 37 people were killed in two separate bomb attacks on Christmas Day. One bomb exploded outside St John's Catholic Church as worshippers were leaving, killing at least 26. Another bomb went off in an outside market in a Christian neighbourhood, killing at least 11. Around 60 people were injured.

In Egypt, 207 churches were said to have been attacked during 2013. In August, 80 churches were destroyed in two days.

Gunmen fired on people leaving a church wedding in Cairo, killing two adults and two children. Christian girls continue to be kidnapped for forced conversion to Islam and marriage to Muslim husbands. Many Christians live in poverty.

With the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi and the outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood, a new draft constitution written in December offers some hope for Christians. It promises freedom of belief for Muslims, Christians and Jews, and lifts restrictions on the construction and renovation of church buildings. It is not clear whether Christians will be able to share their faith and whether people will be able to change their religion without consequences.

Pray for these nations.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Israel security fence: Christmas desecrated

Well, the news is getting round. St James's Church in Piccadilly, London, has an eight metre-high, 30 metre-long wall in its courtyard from December 23 to January 5 as part of its festival Bethlehem Unwrapped: A festival of Bethlehem at Christmas.

Its purpose is to draw attention to the "apartheid wall" that "surrounds Bethlehem," where Christ was born. The thing is, first, Israel isn't apartheid, and never has been. Second, the wall doesn't surround Bethlehem, or anything like it.

The Israelis built the security fence because they were sick and tired of innocent Israeli civilians being blown to pieces by terrorist bombs in buses, hotels, restaurants and night clubs. From the beginning of the Second Intifada to the construction of the first continuous section of the barrier in July, 2003, 73 Palestinian suicide bombings were carried out from the West Bank, killing 293 Israelis and injuring more than 1,900.

Says Raheem Kassam: "As early as 2006 it was reported that since the fence's erection, there was an approximate 90 percent decrease in the number of successful terror attacks registered. A drop of approximately 70 percent was also recorded in the number of casualties resulting from terror attacks."

Of the numbers of men, women and children killed and the number of lives saved by the security fence: at St James's Church, presumably, not a word. Of the deep hurt caused to families of the innocent people massacred, well, they're Israelis, so who cares?

(You can read an impassioned letter to the church from a woman who almost died in a Palestinian terrorist attack here.)

An alternative service of lessons and carols at St James's features traditional carols suitably desecrated to attack Israel, as follows:

Once in Royal David's city
  Stood a big apartheid wall;
People entering and leaving
  Had to pass a checkpoint hall.
Bethlehem was strangulated;
  And her children segregated.

It is inexpressibly sad that Christian churches, and Christianity itself, should be used for blatant political propaganda.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Five reasons for believing God exists

William Lane Craig, one of the best known Christian apologists, gives five reasons for believing in the existence of God:

First, God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.  Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

Second, God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life.  That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range.  There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature's laws and the desperate manoeuvres needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.

Third, God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

Fourth, God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in Himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and He carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact.  Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after His crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after His death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.

Fifth, God can be personally known and experienced.
 The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.

The good thing is that atheists tend to be very passionate people and want to believe in something. If they would only put aside the slogans for a moment and reexamine their worldview in light of the best philosophical, scientific, and historical evidence we have today, then they, too, would find Christmas worth celebrating!

Something to think about as we enter a new year.