Faith – Critics and skeptics will always try to discredit Jesus and his deity. For myself, it is just another way I know that Jesus is the real deal. I’ve yet to see a book discrediting Muhammad, Buddha, or any other religion’s messiah anywhere on the best-seller list.
However, authors, filmmakers, scientists, and atheists are all lined up at Jesus’ doors, ready to discredit, cast doubt on, or mock the one who came to die for humanity. Ever wonder why that is?
Take Dan Brown and his take on first-century arguments repackaged into the mega-book and film hits “The Da Vinci Code.” Or how about Ethan Bronner’s “Ancient Tablet Sparks Debate on Messiah and Resurrection” from the New York Times in 2008?
In Bronner’s article, he tells about “a three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus,” which he states was “causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.”
For those who may not know, Christians are not the first religion to have a “risen savior” story. Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Attis, Zagreus, and Dionysus would all have a similar story of dying and rising. All of those who came before Jesus, but not before Jesus, were prophesied. Jesus is often imitated but never duplicated.
Bronner goes on to say, “If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.”
Well, guess what, Ethan, as we used to say when I was young, “no duh.” Have you ever read the Old Testament, Mr. Bronner? Specifically, Isaiah 53. In John 5:39, Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures,” which in His time was the Old Testament, “for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.”
“Some Christians will find it [the tablet speaking of a resurrected savior] shocking, a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology, while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism,” explained Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley, who was quoted in the article. I think it would be more of a shock to the Jewish community to find that out rather than to Christians, as it is something we have known for a long time.
Boyarin is right about one thing. Many in the Christian community have grown up in the faith. They’ve never faced criticism of their faith until they hit college, where what they believe is challenged by professors in positions of authority and faced with questions they’ve never heard before, like why we have no original manuscripts of the New Testament. Not even copies of originals or copies of copies of originals are permitted. If they’ve never heard that until college, they must wonder what other things their Sunday school teachers and pastors haven’t told them. That’s why churches should be teaching their congregants apologetics.
Apologetics is a three-dollar word for being able to defend one’s faith. There are lots of million-dollar apologists out there to read, like Josh McDowell and others, but as J. Warner Wallace, a retired cold-case detective who was an atheist turned Christian apologist, would say, what’s needed is a million one-dollar apologists who can defend their faith. Churches are doing their parishioners a disservice by not preparing them to face a hostile environment when they exit the church doors.
The failure of a lot of churches is not to preach the whole gospel. They like to promote part of the gospel, leaving large parts of the hard-to-hear text undiscovered by their members. If you believe the God of the Old Testament was a genocide killer, you’re not getting the correct view of a truly loving God and what He was actually doing.
Churches should prepare their members for an increasingly hostile world. They need knowledge not only from the Bible but also about the Bible and the critics that await them in the world so that they can face them, and as Peter said, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”