Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remember the Opposition

From the beginning Christians have experienced opposition, even to the point of being put to death for what they believed. Now this does not prove Christianity is true. But it does call into question some of the common explanations given to explain Christianity.

The book of Acts presents the Christian church as being opposed from its very inception. But even if you claim that Acts is a work of pure fiction written later, within about 30 years of its founding, Christians were being put to death by Nero. It is the consistent testimony of the ancient church that the apostles all suffered persecution and all but one died from it. Even if you question this, how did they convince others in so short a time to be willing to die? Some would claim that Nero, being a tyrant, would not have allowed Christians to back out even if they wanted to. But if they had had no determined conviction, they would have simply dumped this belief when it became dangerous. Certainly they would not have kept coming for future persecutions.

There were also many arguments made against Christianity. There was Galen, who claimed that miracles were a violation of physical laws. There was Lucian, who presented Christians as a bunch of naive do-gooders who could be taken advantage of by any scoundrel. There were the vicious rumors that Christians mingled babies' blood in the Eucharistic elements and engaged in orgies after the service. Many arguments against Christianity were there from the very beginning. It is therefore significant to note the ones that were not. Arguments like "Jesus never existed" or "He was just a great moral teacher" and "no one ever claimed He rose from the dead until long after the fact." Or "Christianity grew up gradually over time" and "Christians changed what they believed multiple numbers of times." If these were true they would have been obvious, and Lucian and Celsius and Porphyry would have trumpeted them everywhere. And it is difficult to see how the Christians could have hushed the whole thing up.

This brings us to the basic questions. Who was Jesus Christ? Was He a legend that grew up before the critics could notice it? Was He the greatest con-man of all time, and if so how did He pull it off (and what did He think He was going to get out of it)? Was He a crazy who thought He was God, and if so how was He able to appear sane enough to get people to die for Him? Or was He really who He claimed to be--God who became man to pay the penalty for sins. What really happened to leave the tomb empty that Sunday morning (and if it was not empty, how did people come to believe it was)? The existence of the opposition to Christianity does not answer these questions. But it does call into question certain simplistic answers.

No comments:

Post a Comment