Christians


While Dan Brown’s books may make for good readin’ (or not) they shouldn’t be used to ascertain historical facts. I’ve already made some posts about The Da Vinci Code. This article from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper gives a list of 50 of the more grievous ones: The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown: 50 factual errors

I’m not posting this to poke fun at Dan Brown, or take pleasure in pointing out his mistakes. Nor am I confused about the status of Brown’s books as being fiction. So responses of “IT’S ONLY A FICTION BOOK GET OVER IT” are not welcome or helpful. Although well aware that Brown’s books are fictional, many people DO believe at least parts of them are accurate. An example is my former co-worker who, upon learning I am a Christian, said something to the effect of “Oh I guess you haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, it destroys Christianity!”

Of course after he saw The Real Da Vinci Code program on TV and got the facts he changed his mind. But it illustrates the need for proper information.

thinking.jpgShouldn’t Christians just leave people alone? After all, if all religions feel fulfilling to those that follow them, why try to get people to change their beliefs? You may have heard people say that there are many roads up the mountain, but they all eventually lead to the same point at the top.

I guess it depends whether religion is like insulin or ice cream. For example, I prefer chocolate ice cream, while you might prefer vanilla, or butter pecan, or strawberry, or … great, now I’m hungry. But regardless of what your favorite flavor is, there’s nothing wrong with choosing one instead of another; it’s a personal preference. If someone told me they liked mint flavor best, I wouldn’t respond by saying “What the heck’s wrong with you?” or “How dare you choose mint instead of chocolate, you big jerk!”

The point is this:
That’s the beauty of ice cream – you can choose what you prefer. When it comes to medicine, however, it doesn’t make sense to choose what you prefer. Rather, it’s essential to choose what heals. It would be silly to choose NyQuil over penicillin simply because it tastes better. (Greg Koukl)

When choosing ice cream, you choose what you like. But when you choose medicine, you choose what heals you. Religion isn’t like ice cream, where you should choose whatever “tastes best”. You need to choose what’s true. The truth is often tough, but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore it and choose what we like.

Jesus didn’t claim Christianity is ‘true like ice cream’. He didn’t say “Come, follow me, it’ll be fun!”. He in fact claimed something very specific, contradicting every single religious (or non-religious) person who lived before him. He claimed that it’s impossible to “earn” our way into heaven, and in fact need to trust in God (who Jesus himself claimed to be in human form) instead of trusting our own failing efforts.

But isn’t that pure arrogance? Isn’t that intolerant? Doesn’t it sound presumptuous for Christians to claim they have “the truth” and all other religions are wrong? Well, only if truth is like ice cream. If someone is dying and needs medicine, you need to give them what will heal them, not what they like best. In the same way, Jesus gives us what we need, and ultimately what is best for us.

There are many different paths, but they don’t all eventually lead to the top of the same mountain. Some veer off to the left and the right; others climb entirely different mountains! And if God is real, truth about God is not like ice cream; it’s like medicine, and only what is true can heal.

ehrmancolbertSee Stephen Colbert dialogue with Bart Ehrman about Ehrman’s “new” book, Jesus Interrupted. (Click here instead if you’re in Canada.) It’s a pretty funny interview, as is usual for Mr Colbert. Although Colbert plays a character on his show, in real life he is a practicing Catholic and Sunday School teacher, so it’s not too surprising that he would want to invite Ehrman on his show to give him an intellectual leg-drop. He actually does make some valid points against Mr Ehrman, who clearly isn’t prepared for such a sarcastic assault.

One of Ehrman’s main points goes unchallenged on the show, however. That being that the earliest Christians didn’t think Jesus was divine. Ehrman’s argument seems to be that even though Jesus is clearly portrayed as being divine in the Gospel of John (which he admits), in the (ostensibly earlier) synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) he is not portrayed as being God. So, Ehrman is saying, since the synoptics are earlier and don’t portray Jesus as God, John can be dismissed as a later invention (or evolution) of the Jesus story.

At the outset, this black-and-white distinction is false, since reading the synoptics should not result in anyone thinking that the authors intended to portray Jesus as “just a guy”. Even if someone wants to claim Jesus is not divine in the synoptics, it would be ridiculous to say that Jesus is not seen as being utterly unique and far above and beyond all other people who have ever lived.

But when Ehrman’s claim that Jesus’ divinity is absent from the synoptic gospels is studied more carefully, there are at least two huge problems. First, I think it’s false that Jesus’ divinity is not found in the synoptics. There are in fact many ways the authors speak of Jesus’ divinity in the synoptics. I’ve explained one of these ways in depth in my post “Jesus Never Claimed to be God?“. I think we can see in the early synoptic gospel writings how the authors are struggling to comprehend this god-man, this real human being who lived and ate and walked with them, but who at the same time was nevertheless “God in the flesh”. (See also Glenn Miller on the subject of Jesus’ self-understanding in the synoptics.)

The second problem is that the synoptic gospels are not the earliest documents in the New Testament. The earliest documents are generally agreed to be Paul’s letters, which contain some of the strongest statements of Jesus’ divinity, such as Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” and Philippians 2:5-7: “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.” Therefore, going by Ehrman’s method, since Paul’s writings are earlier than the synoptics, the should be trusted instead, and these statements regarding Jesus’ divinity should be believed ahead of the later synoptic gospels’ descriptions.

A featured article series currently on TheLife.com, written by Canadian philosopher Michael Horner, investigates Jesus’ resurrection as final proof of Jesus’ divinity; ie, that not only did Jesus claim to be divine, but that the resurrection validated His claim. Please take a moment today to read “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?

Oh, and happy Easter! Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, it is truly the greatest and happiest of all holidays.

homerbartIt’s no secret that “religious people” have, over the last several thousand years, done a lot of bad things. And they continue to do a lot of bad things today. I touched on this issue previously in a post titled “Christians do bad things, where I started off by saying: “I’d like to begin this short post with an apology: I’d like to apologize on behalf of Christians who have, throughout history, done some pretty rotten things supposedly in the name of Jesus Christ.”

While it is indeed lamentable that such things occur, what does this prove about whether the Christian faith is true or not?

I was thinking about this yesterday while spending some time with a friend who is very distrustful of “organized religion”. I don’t know the exact reasons for this distrust, but perhaps it’s because my friend has been exposed to many stories of religious abuse, scandal, and charlatanry. But while this may prove something about humankind, it proves nothing about God.

While I was walking to the mall today (in the brisk -16C Toronto weather) I thought … “Just because people cause problems, does that mean that God is not great?” The latter doesn’t follow from the former.

The latter (“God is not great”) also happens to be the title of a book by Christopher Hitchens, who in my humble opinion is a skilled orator and rhetorician but not necessarily a precise thinker or researcher of facts, which will make his upcoming debate with William Lane Craig very interesting. I hope that Craig realizes this debate will be much different than his usual debates against his philosopher peers.

« Previous PageNext Page »