September 4, 2007

I Am Not A Brainwashed Moron

I attended public school as a child and a public university as an adult. One thing my instructors consistently taught me throughout the years, either explicitly and implicitly (regardless of the subject), was this: Only brainwashed morons could be Christians.

Since I am a Christian and am not a brainwashed moron, I feel this sentiment begs an argument. I will ignore the flagrant condescension inherent in the claim and instead focus only on its most important (and false) assumption: That the evidence for the historicity of Christ does not warrant rational belief, and that you would therefore have to be a moron to put your faith in it.

I believe that this assumption is rooted in three major misconceptions:
  1. The New Testament is not a reliably historical account of events and belongs more appropriately on the fiction shelf. This misconception completely ignores the very motives that the gospels themselves express. The author of the Gospel of Luke, for instance, explicitly states that he has carefully researched the facts. Such research inherently includes seeking input from primary sources -- including speaking to witnesses of the events. Because he set out specifically to prepare a historical document based on facts, there are plenty of specific references to people, places and even the times that these events occurred. Luke 2, for instance, is loaded with such details, specifically naming Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, Syria, Galilee, Judea, Bethlehem and Nazareth. Perhaps the most interesting detail is the mention of Nazareth -- a region so insignificant that until recently it was thought to not even exist. The Gospels were intended from the beginning to be historical records, supply the very details that could be used to refute them if it were possible, and were written during a time when witnesses who could have refuted them would have.

  2. Christianity would crumble if it would acknowledge the "other" Gospels (those of Thomas, Judas and Mary, for instance). Admittedly, the fact that some "Gospels" are not included in the official canon of scripture can make it appear that the Church actively ignores evidence that contradicts their "dogmatic, preconceived notions". On closer examination, however, it becomes obvious why the Gnostic Gospels are not included in the classic canon of scripture: they don't match. The character names are the same, but the characters are not. In the Gospel of Thomas, for instance, the boy Jesus is reported to have killed another boy for bumping into him on the street. Is this just showing a different side of Jesus, or a totally fictitious one? Well, let me offer an illustration. I love the book "Huckleberry Finn". But if I were to pen a new "lost" chapter to the book, one in which Jim speaks the Queen's English and Huck becomes a hardworking oil baron, on what grounds should I or anybody demand that it be included in the book? Anybody that has read the rest of the book will instantly realize that my chapter does not belong in Huckleberry Finn. As with the Gnostic gospels, merely having characters with the same names doesn't make them fit in the broader context of the book.

  3. The claims made in the New Testament are too fantastic to be taken as fact. If we were to use only what "seems possible" as our benchmark, we would be using a poor standard indeed. For a glimpse into just how strange a world this is, take a look at "twin studies". Twin studies are used to determine the influences of nature versus nurture in the development of the human psyche, and are conducted by following the lives of twins who were separated at birth -- same genetics (nature), but different families (nurture). More than once, the similarities in the lives of the twins are staggering. They end up liking the same foods, having the same occupations, driving the same cars (makes AND models!), and sometimes even their wives have the same first names! But however improbable that may be, it does happen. Now, look at the New Testament. These books, which were written with the full intent of recording history accurately and by men who stood to gain nothing by doing so, tell of a man who is born, miraculously heals several people on many different occasions -- including raising people from the dead -- and claims to be the very son of God whose arrival was predicted centuries before in the book of Isaiah. He then is killed as predicted centuries before and rises again, fully alive, to be seen by many witnesses over a period of 40 days before ascending into the heavens. Improbable? Certainly. Impossible? Nothing is impossible, and due to the credibility of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, there is every reason to believe it is true.

Christianity does not demand a "blind" faith. Christians are welcome to test their faith against reason, because the Christian faith has substance and stands up to an honest search for the facts. I believe in the life-saving work of Jesus not because I have been brainwashed, not because I have ignored evidence to the contrary, and not because I fervently wish it were true. I believe because I have examined the evidence and found that the record preserved in the New Testament is credible and continues to stand the test of time.

If you are finding that the facts don't warrant a belief in Jesus, perhaps your research is incomplete?

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1 comment:

Bryan Simmons said...

You make some good arguements. As I read this, Google is advertising Lee Storbel's "The Case for Christ." which is also a good look into the scriptures.

Regarding your Huck Finn analogy, I think that the Gnostic gospels are disregarded not so much for the content but that their dating is much later and therfore simply though you or I were to write a gospel based upon what we think we know and think it should be in the canon.

I've seen those shows about twins. It's amazing. Not as amazing as raising the dead, though. I'm not sure that holds up. You cannot come to know Christ by reason alone just like you cannot come to disregard him by reason alone. There is always faith involved.

When it is all said and done. I don't believe people are afraid of the goodness of Jesus. I believe they are afraid of the wackos and crooks, which unfortunately there are plenty. The gospel of Jesus the Christ has to do with life. If more knew simply that we would be much better off.

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