There's Nothing Special About Christianity
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, July 02, 2010
That's right. There's nothing especially special about Christianity. At least according to some of the intelligentsia.
The other week I picked up a brochure called "Insight On Diversity" published by a local University. In this particular issue they had a focus on religion and a small assortment of quotes under the title "What is Religion?" Two of the quotes particularly caught my eye.
One was by Algernon Black:
"Why not let people differ about their answers to the great mysteries of the Universe? Let each seek one's own way to the highest, to one's own sense of supreme loyalty in life, one's ideal of life. Let each philosophy, each world-view bring forth its truth and beauty to a larger perspective, that people may grow in vision, stature and dedication."
The other one was by Mohandas K. Gandhi:
"It is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others' religions as we would have them respect our own, a friendly study of the world's religions is a sacred duty."
In an attempt to address Algernon and Gandhi, I'd like to use a hypothetical situation. Imagine you're on a sheer mountain and that there are hundreds of different possible roads to choose from, with as many fervent advocates trying to sell you a map for each of them. Now imagine that only one of those roads will get you home safely while all the rest take you down a precipice to your death.
What Algernon and Gandhi are basically saying is that each road has a value and is worthy to be considered and studied. There isn't only one valid road, there are many and it is arrogant and narrow minded to say otherwise. But Christianity claims to point to the ONLY right road.
And what if my gateway to salvation is to kill people who think differently and chop down as many trees as I can? Is my view just as valid as that of the Gaia-worshipping pacifist?
In this cultural environment it's generally politically incorrect to attack any religion. This includes Christianity even though it claims to teach the only truth. Often, however, there are exceptions and we see this in the current trend by atheists writing books trying to debunk Christianity. There are other methods of disparaging the Christian faith.
The skeptical critic's strategy for evaluating Christianity is to demand the most stringent tests because the stakes are so high. On the other hand, anything that may vaguely debunk Christianity is enthusiastically digested.
Some three or four years ago, Professor of Oceanography Doron Nof postulated that Jesus' miracle of the walking on the water might have a more mundane explanation. Dr. Nof suggested that Jesus could have actually walked on a frozen patch of ice created by a rare combination of optimal and atmospheric conditions that allowed for a unique phenomenon that he and his colleagues named springs ice.
That would make Jesus somewhat of a surfer. The theory goes that from a distance it only looked like Jesus was walking on water. Somehow, the patch of ice was conveniently drifting to the boat and Jesus was only standing and waiting. He must have had some latent skill in the exploit because He didn't fall off and the winds didn't affect Him and just happened to propel Him in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for Peter. He got off the boat and repeated the same feat at least for a few moments. I've yet to work out how the disciples didn't notice the patch of ice Peter must have momentarily walked on until he fell off. Maybe it was too dark to see. But then, of course, they couldn't have seen Jesus in the first place to think he was a ghost. Problems, problems!
More recently theologian Gunnar Samuelsson suggested that there was flimsy evidence that Jesus was crucified and that He may have actually been impaled. He claims that, "the New Testament is in fact far more ambiguous about the exact method of the Messiah's execution than many Christians are aware."
The thrust of his argument centers on the word Cross. The Greek word used for Cross is stauros. Samuelsson argues:
"Stauros is actually used to describe a lot of different poles and execution devices. So the device described in the Gospels could have been a cross, but it could also have been a spiked pole, or a tree trunk, or something entirely different."
Yet if Jesus was impaled He couldn't have spoken any words and there would have been no Seven Sayings of the Cross. He could not have spoken to the thief who was crucified with Him, nor would it have been necessary to break His legs to speed up His death, or spear His side to make sure that He was dead. It would also have been pointless for Thomas to have checked the nail prints (John 20:27).
The New Testament is ambiguous? Flimsy evidence?
I wonder which New Testament he's talking about and how he actually weighs up the balance of NT evidence based on one word. This type of theorizing is the style of someone who is biased to a particular perspective that they either expect or want to be true. Unfortunately, even the worst arguments become acceptable and popular when proposed by someone with a PhD.
What motivates this type of non-critical thinking?
If Christianity is uniquely true in contrast to all the other claims of truth then all must face the consequences of where they stand with God, eternity and God's requirements upon the individual. If it is true then one must decide one's future by taking some form of action.
Christianity had better not be special and some people need to make sure of that, one way or another.
About Alf Cengia
Last Week: The New Turkey
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