Thursday, September 7, 2017

Was Christianity Invented?

Many skeptics will say that most of the details about Jesus' life, particularly his miracles and resurrection, were added on later due to legend or crafted to make a viable religion out of their dead Messiah. But, ask yourselves, who was this new religion crafted for? Assuming for the moment that the resurrection was made up, the new Christians' message of a resurrected Jesus would not have appealed to Greeks or Romans. To them, our body was a cage, and the goal was for our souls to "fly away" (sound familiar - even some hymns have non-Christian influences...). No Greek or Roman would want a resurrection. For them, the body is crude and vulgar, and the soul craves freedom.

So, who's left? The Jews. Yet the idea of a crucified Messiah was appalling to the Jews. Their Messiah was a victorious ruler, not a dead-dog of a man hanging on a cross.

What, then, is the point of this new religion that focuses on a man come back to life? Why craft a new religion that makes no sense to or offends all of your potential converts? Oh, and preaching this new thing you just made up will get you beaten or killed by these people you've just upset. If you're going to make up a narrative about your Messiah, why that one?

No Jew would have made up a crucified Messiah, and no Greek or Roman would have wanted a resurrected one. 

Thus the best explanation for the birth of Christianity, rather than being an invention, is that this dead-dog Jesus actually got up again a few days later and appeared to his followers. Imagine the shock of seeing your Rabbi walking toward you a couple of days after you just saw him killed. That's the sort of thing the one doesn't forget.

The rise of Christianity must be explained in a way that makes sense of the historical realities.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

On Standing for Truth in the Public High School

I am a public high school physics teacher. I am also committed to following Christ and to the idea that his reign extends to all of life. Yet in our culture it is inappropriate for a public educator to proselytize or to advocate for one's own religion. How then do I stand for Christ while not being able freely to discuss him in the classroom?

Consider this conversation between me and a student:
Student: Where is room 235?
Teacher: Where would you like it to be?
Student: [look of confusion] I don't know...
Teacher: Well, culture tells us that we can make up our own truth. What true for you is not true for me. So, what is the truth here?
Student: Well, I guess whatever makes us happy?
Teacher: Great. So where would you like room 235 to be to make you happy?
Student: I just want to get to my meeting!
Teacher: Oh, so room 235 can't be just anywhere?
Student: I guess not.
Teacher: So, truth isn't just what we make it to be?
Student: Nooo...[again, the look of confusioin]
Teacher: Room 235 is just around the corner.
What was my point of this conversation that the student probably thought was pretty weird? It was simply to show that reality does not bend to our wishes, that the things that we think in our heads must match the world out there if they are to be true.

Nobody can possibly live consistently with the idea that truth is what we make it, no matter how many times we are told otherwise. Room 235 is where it is and not where I'd like it to be.

Before a person can accept the truth about Jesus Christ and his work of redemption for mankind, and person must first believe that the Christian account of reality is true. Before they can accept the Christian understanding of the world as true, they must first believe that truth is true. Francis Schaeffer used to talk about the notion of "pre-evangelism," that is, that before we can meaningfully discuss the gospel with someone, we first have to prepare the soil, so to speak. They have to be ready to hear truth, and if they are not ready, then we will not be communicating what they first need to hear.

So I look for opportunities in the classroom to show my students that truth is true. The world does not stoop to me; I must stoop to the world. In lots of little ways like this I am proclaiming truth to my students. Then, maybe down the road in God's sovereignty somebody else will come along to meaningfully share the gospel of Jesus Christ and that person will be ready to hear and consider it.

Something to think about.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Putting God Out of a Job?

In my interactions with members of our local freethought society, it is simply assumed that science has displaced God. He has become unnecessary because our knowledge of physics, chemistry, cosmology, and biology have grown immensely. Our gaps of knowledge are being filled in, and therefore there is no need for God.

By way of response, I came across  this quotation from physicist Luke Barnes, co-author of the wonderful book, A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos. He speaks directly to this tendency on the part of atheists to assume that God retreats on the field of battle as scientific knowledge marches forward:

The relationship of God to the Universe is something like that of an author to a book. We won’t find J. K. Rowling in Hogwarts or Shakespeare in fair Verona. We can’t put the author out of a job by discovering a new character, or deciphering the plot, of finding the first page of the book, which reveals how the story started. This is not a hastily revised ‘modern’ God, retreating in the face of science. It predates the scientific revolution by a few thousand years, and for the most part was the worldview of the makers of the scientific revolution.
The Christian Philosopher of science and mathematician, John Lennox, makes a similar point in his book, God's Undertaker:
…understanding the mechanism by which a Ford car works is not in itself an argument for regarding Mr. Ford himself as non-existent. The existence of a mechanism is not in itself an argument for the non-existence of an agent who designed the mechanism. 
How silly would it be for a car mechanic to lift the hood and declare, "I don't see Henry Ford! He must not exist!" In the same way as our scientific knowledge progresses, we do not put God out of a job.

Christian theists do not hold to "god-of-the-gaps" theology that says because we do not understand something, therefore God did it. No serious Christian thinker has ever advocated this position. Rather, God is a necessary being who is the ground of all existence. This view of God has been dominant since Aristotle, who although was not a Christian, he understood the need for a different kind of being to ground all motion and change.

Ironically, even as atheists assert that they are the rational and educated ones, they operate with a view of God that historically no one has ever held. I have found this lack of interaction with serious Christian theism to be a hallmark of the thought of our local freethinkers, thus one of my goals for continuing to join them is to disrupt their echo chamber and to represent (as best I can) the stream of Christian philosophy that they have never interacted with.