Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who Mourns for Adonis?

One argument against Christianity is that it is derived from other religions. This claim is often based on misinformation. For instance, the worship of Mithras, a belief for which we have only scanty evidence, has been reinterpreted to appear to have greater similarity to Christianity than the facts warrant. But after all the dubious example have been dismissed, there are still similarities. Can this be explained?

It is the Christian position that God revealed Himself to human beings from the very beginning. Now, if the Christian account of the beginnings of human history is true, it is not surprising if other people have similar versions. The existence of flood stories in many cultures is not a disproof of Christianity but a vindication of it. But it is also not surprising if many of the details got garbled. Scripture says the law of God is written on the hearts of men (Romans 2:14-16), and basic moral principles were revealed in the beginning (Genesis 9:6). Also revealed were practices such as animal sacrifice (Genesis 4:3-8; 8:20,21). Also, there may have been other things revealed we are not told about. Noah knew about clean and unclean animals (Genesis 7:2).

Right after the fall of man, God promised a deliverer who would be the seed of the woman and would (though wounded in the process) crush the head of the bringer of death (Genesis 3:15). It is quite possible they were given more information on this that was not recorded. Therefore, it is not surprising that in many beliefs there is a God or hero who tries to conquer death, whether successfully or not. But these are all events that happen long before there are clear historical records. The acts of Jesus occurred in the full light of history. Now many of these dying and resurrected gods are connected to the agricultural cycle, the production of new crops in the spring after the barrenness of winter. But it was God who created the seasons, and it is reasonable to suppose, as Scripture suggests, God meant it as an illustration of death and resurrection (John 12:24; 1 Corinthians 15:36-38).

We are still left with the question of which came first. One thing that argues for the Christian position is the near universality of the similarities involved. They are found all around the world, which is what you would expect of something there from the beginning. Also, they come together in Christianity to make a clear system with a clear purpose. The whole concept of creation, fall, death, sacrifice, and resurrection shows the way we need to follow to come to God. But, whatever we conclude, the similarities simply are not a disproof of Christianity. If the whole world is waiting with bated breath for the great hero who will break the power of death, should we be surprised when He appears?

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