|Posted by thethousandmarch on September 11, 2013 at 1:25 PM|
What would it take to convince me that I’m wrong? This is a question I’ve been thinking about lately in regards to my faith. Why? It is my belief that faith, particularly faith in Jesus the Christ is rational. It is not merely a subjective emotional response to my own experience, nor is it a complete leap. The Christian faith is built upon objective historical truth claims which can be tested. It is an explanation of reality in which we attempt to make a rational interpretation of the observable evidence. In other words Christianity is concerned with what is true – not just what works for me. Now faith in Christ is not simply what we believe is true, it is the trust we place in Jesus as a result of believing that it is true that he is God’s Anointed One, the savior of the world. At least this is what the Christian faith is to me.
The other day I was watching an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee in which Sarah Silverman was the guest. As they were driving they passed a Scientology ‘church’, which got Silverman talking about a bit she is developing concerning Scientology and other religions. She says:
it’s only weird to us because it’s new. We make fun of it because it’s bat**** crazy, but it’s no more bat**** crazy than Catholicism or anything, right. It’s new to hear people worship a guy named Ron . . . . We know Ron . . . .
The way even many Christians think about their faith this is an accurate critique. Many people don’t seem to care whether or not what they believe is objectively true, all that matters is if it ‘works’ for them. And if it ‘works’ – however you define that for yourself – it doesn’t matter if it is crazy. Yet I would contend that Scientology is crazy – even though it does seem to help some people – because we know that its founder was a liar who lied about his life and about what he accomplished through Dianetics. The same can be said for many other religions – we know that the historical claims which they make about their leaders, their founding and various other ‘historical’ events are false. This means they have to come up with other ways of interpreting those ‘truth’ claims.
So when we get to Christianity we must also evaluate its truth claims. You see Christianity very much claims to be based upon historical events – a real person and the real things he did. If it turns out that Jesus is not the person he claimed to be or didn’t do the things it is claimed he did, especially raise from the dead, then Christianity is crazy and should be rejected. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:17-19: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” And if Silverman thinks it’s only weird to us today to worship a guy name Ron because we know him then she must be unfamiliar with the story of Jesus because they said the same thing about him. In Mark 6:3 we read how they said of him “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” And not because at that time he was asking them to worship him, but simply because they said “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?” (6:2).
As has been observed before, if Jesus is not the man he claimed to be than he was a lunatic or a liar. Of course it may be true that Jesus never made such claims; it could have just been his followers who invented this lie, or if we are being nice, ‘myth’. Either way, if our faith is a lie then “we are of all people most to be pitied”. If the founder (maybe founders) of our faith was (we’re) crazy, the truth claims made lies, if our faith is completely irrational and has no basis in reality then yes, our religion is bat**** crazy. If that were the case I would reject it.
Of course some people may say it doesn’t matter if it’s true, it’s still helpful. I’ve heard Christians say if it turns out Christianity is not true at least it helped them live a better life. We could think of Christianity and other religions as fairytales for adults. And fairytales do serve some useful purpose – especially when we are trying to either scare our children, or (more often these days) incentivize good behavior. I however am an adult and have no interest in having fairytales direct my life. But maybe that’s too harsh, maybe these stories are ‘myths’, which may not be historically true, but still teach us wonderful truths. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, but he might have been a good teacher who taught some wonderful timeless truths which can help us be better people. If that’s the case then I would say it’s time for us to move past these myths.
I want to look at the available evidence and I want to make a rational decision as to what is most probably the true nature of reality. Then I want to do my best to live my life accordingly. It is not of primary importance to me what makes me feel good at this moment, or what I think ‘works’ for me. What matters is what is true, what really works in reality (which I must confess I do think will lead to my maximum happiness). And so I believe in Christianity and put my trust in Jesus, because I believe he is a prophet of God, because I believe God raised him from the dead, and therefore I believe his message that he is the son of God, the Christ, the savior, redeemer and mediator between God and humans. I do believe the universe had a Creator and that this creation is at present corrupted by sin and death; I do believe this story will have an end where God will redeem his creation removing sin and death from it. But what would it take to convince me I’m wrong?
I was listening to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast, "The Folly of Prediction", in which they talk about how bad experts are at predicting the future. In it they tell us that those people who are especially “dogmatic” about their position are worse at make predictions than those who are more open to other possibilities. Those who the researchers considered “dogmatic” are those who when asked what would it take to convince you your prediction is wrong couldn’t think of anything, and had often never considered the question.
In the podcast one of the things identified as a prediction of the future is the question of what happens to us after we die. I’d like to point out that if Christianity is true than we are not making a prediction about what happens to us when we die, we have been told what will happen to us by the Creator of the Universe who has come to earth, took the form of a man and then told us what was going to happen to us. But what would it take to convince me that this was wrong.
I would initially say that if one could show that Jesus was not raised from the dead or if the historical Jesus of Nazareth is nothing like Jesus the Christ presented in the Bible I would be convinced that Christianity wasn’t true. If Jesus didn’t actually believe and teach what came to be Christianity by the writing of the Gospel accounts – as many, most recently Reza Aslan, would have us believe – I would be convinced that Christianity wasn’t true. This would be hard to do. A predetermined bias that no one can be raised from the dead is not proof, and it would be a little difficult to produce the body of Jesus today. And overall I find the claims of people like Aslan ridiculous, but that may just be my bias.
Even if the Earth is 4.5 Billion years old; biological evolution is true in some way; Adam and Eve aren’t real people; the flood didn’t cover the entire earth; the Israelites didn’t pass through the Red Sea; Jonah wasn’t a real person; and many other such things in the Old Testament are not ‘historical’ or ‘scientifically’ true in the way many evangelicals would like to believe they are true that would not make any difference to my understanding of Jesus. (To be clear I’m not saying what I think about any of those things.) For me to be convinced that Christianity is not true I suppose I must be convinced that the Jesus I put my trust in is not real. How that would be done, I don’t know. I do however contend that if the Jesus I do believe in is true, than my faith is rational and is based upon historical evidence. This does not of course prove my faith is true, but it does demonstrate that my faith is not bat**** crazy, nor is it crazy for me to worship Jesus even if his name were Ron, Bob, Steve, or Josh.