Thursday, January 27, 2011

Faith is Nonsense PART V- Stories for Boys.

In part five of our look at what objections an atheist might throw at people who believe, we arrive at the idea that Christianity is full of stories that are as believable as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

Although I DO want to mention that there WAS a Santa Claus or a St. Nicholas, but that is beside the point.

Anyhow, if I was an atheist I would point to the fact the Bible isn't just filled with stories - but biased and prejudiced stories.  These were not stories from objective reporters - they were people who had a stake in the whole affair . . . and particularly a stake in the positive outcome of a Messiah who rises from the dead.

Of course this is true, we cannot pretend that the 1st century writers were anything like the objective and completely unbiased reporters that we have today that give us all the news without any slant . . .

Okay, let me try that again - forget that last sentence.  

Of course this is true, we cannot pretend that the 1st century writers held anything close to the idea that we hold (that very rarely gets practiced) of unvarnished truth - the God's eye perspective of history without any human bias.  They were open about their desire to have people put their faith in Jesus.  Luke states it within the first few chapters and so does John - repeatedly, that people would put their faith in Christ.

Remember, though, they lived in an era of myth - story that conveyed truth through sacred narrative.  Whereas we might try to get an objective account from a detached and unbiased source, this was not part of the ancient ethic.  

And just how is this helpful for those who put their faith in all of it?  So far all we have concluded is that the Bible is a collection of biased accounts from an era of myth . . . can't wait to sign up for that!  What we forget is the KIND of story that was reported - not the MANNER in which it is reported.  N.T. Wright has offered an interesting perspective on the issue by saying that the Christian story had a ripple effect on the history of ideas that is bigger than its own biased account.

See, up until the time of Jesus, there is no concept in the Western tradition of theology of a person who dies and then rises physically from the dead and re-enters the land of the living as a normal body.  There are many who come back as specters or ghosts, and there are some that talk about a god or spirit taking on the form of a body, but no stories of people who return to the land of the living.  The word for his in Greek is anistimi - one that Jesus uses over and over foretelling His own death and resurrection.  The Jews, however, would have no theological category for this.  This is precisely why the disciples were ignorant about His resurrection when it happened.  So for the ancient mind, Jesus keeps talking about this physical return from the dead and everyone interprets it to mean something spiritual perhaps at some time in the future.

What is interesting is that the event of the resurrection, though preached for decades, doesn't show up in written form until the mid part of the century.  Strangely, that is when Wright discovers a spike in references to this idea of 'anistimi' or bodily resurrection - especially in popular Greek stories of the day.  Wright is cautious to make the connection, but it is fascinating that this idea of resurrection seeps into the popular culture and into the minds and hearts of the common person.  

For some reason, in reaction to something, a switch is flipped on and centuries of silence on a particular theological idea comes to an end as we see the use of 'anistimi' multiply in culture.  And these new sources of the idea were not connected with the disciples or the vision of Jesus so we have no fear of bias.  They simply react to something they heard and resonated with.

If they heard the idea, it had to have been preached or taught.

If it was preached or taught, it had to come from conviction (those who taught that Jesus raised from the dead were dealt with severely).

Most convictions come from experiences that change us.

And here is one of many 'ground zeros' that exist outside the internal bias of the Gospel writers . . . a lot more powerful than the Easter Bunny.

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