Moon turned blood-red on Good Friday, A.D. 33, apologist says
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – According to apologist Peter Williams, Christ hung on the cross on Friday, April 3, A.D. 33—the day of a lunar eclipse in Jerusalem’s skies that turned the moon blood-red.
This lunar eclipse could explain the Apostle Peter’s use of a passage from Joel in Acts 2:20, according to which the moon would be turned “into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” The eclipse is also just one possible line of evidence that affirms the reliability of biblical accounts of Christ’s death and resurrection, Williams said during a lecture at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, April 13.
This heavenly sign provides an important insight for apologetics, said Williams, warden of the Tyndale House in Cambridge England, and lecturer at the University of Aberdeen and Cambridge University. “When people say, ‘Miracles disturb the order, the nice predictable order of science,’ I say, "No. They don't disturb the order. In fact, the ordering principle is Jesus. ... Jesus is a focal point, and what we are seeing is that, time and time again, Jesus explains everything.’"
Christians have at their disposal numerous lines of evidence for confirming the reliability of Scripture, Williams said. Secular historians from the ancient world, for example, recounted the rapid spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire, which suggests that the Christian message was authentic. Moreover, even where the Gospels vary, they contain detailed similarities. Such a mixture of similarity amid diversity suggests that the Gospel writers were recounting historical facts, but with varying emphases. This confirms the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts.
After discussing these, and other, pieces of evidence that support the trustworthiness of Scripture, Williams answered questions from students and faculty based on his own apologetic experience. Although he began his own education with the hopes of becoming a Bible translator, Williams decided to enter secular academia when he realized how many Bible students denied the trustworthiness and authority of Scripture during their education. He noted “the need that we have for people to pursue a career in secular biblical studies, in the context where it is pretty harsh.”
“We need some people to pursue that as a career,” Williams said, “and the sort of people we need are people who will not set their heart on a career in that context, … because if you set your heart on getting recognized in that context, you will sell out.”
Williams also said that much of the apologetic work he does is not aimed at non-Christians. Rather, he often does apologetics for the sake of struggling Christians.
“I actually believe we’re in a culture where a lot of Christians have lost their confidence in the truth of the Bible,” Williams said. Apologetics should provide a foundation for greater confidence and “encourage Christians in evangelism.”
“I don’t want to spend lots of time doing apologetic arguments rather than getting people reading the Scriptures or encountering the paraphrase of the Scriptures as I tell them the story of Jesus,” Williams said. “I am with Spurgeon: ‘Don’t defend the lion. Let the lion loose.’"
Williams encouraged students, in evangelistic contexts, to spend as little time as possible in apologetic arguments. Although apologetics may be necessary “to get some of the prejudice out of the way,” the goal is that they “come and encounter God’s life-giving Word.”
“Let’s remember: Most heresy begins as apologetics,” Williams warned. “That is what Marcion was doing. He was trying to commend the Christian faith to people (who couldn’t accept the) the Old Testament God. … Liberal theology is an exercise in apologetics. Liberals really, sincerely—and deludedly—believe that they are doing God a favor by making Christian belief more palatable to people. I say that as an apologist. Be very careful of the tendency of apologists to make things more palatable.”
Williams also advised students to follow Christ’s example by encouraging committed conversations with non-Christians. Some people “have an endless list of questions,” and it is important to discover whether their questions are “sincere questions, insincere questions, or a mixture” of both.
“We should be asking for commitment,” Williams said. “So we should ask people, ‘Is this your hardest question? Is this your most important question? … What would a good answer to your question look like? What would you do if I answered your question? Would you read the Gospel, come to church?”
In apologetic conversations, Williams said, Christians should ultimately help the lost move from unbelief to belief and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.