Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Growing Up in the Community

One idea  put forth by critics of Christianity is that it grew up slowly in the community. But is this plausible? Theological beliefs are not like dinosaurs, whose origin was in prehistory and could not be directly observed. New faiths have come into existence in the full light of history and continue to do so. And I do not know of any that originated by growing up in a community in the prescribed manner. Religions generally have a founder or founders who set down the basics of the new faith. Later they can develop and change, but there needs to be a hard core there to start with. Now there are cases like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy where parts of the same faith have drifted apart due to time and distance. But this generally requires long periods of time and is over minor matters. But I know of no example of a belief system slowly growing from something insignificant into a major innovation.

This is because no one would bother with a belief system that did not offer some new, significant insight. This is particularly true if the group involved is under pressure because of their beliefs. Also, while there are legends that grow up often fairly quickly about the founders of religions, they do so only after the basic tenets are in place and a core of followers have been won to the belief. Religions tend to be conservate about their core. Even though later tradition deified them, the basic teachings of Confucius and Lao Tzu and Buddha have come down to us substantially intact.  The main place you even find this idea of growing up in the community suggested is in the case of Christianity. It is seldom used to explain other beliefs.

Christianity faced opposition from the very beginning. Even if we discount the book of Acts, it is a historical fact that Christians were being put to death by Nero about thirty years after Christianity's origin. Now people will die for a lie. It is unlikely they will die for something they know to be a lie. But no one will die for some vague idea that has not developed yet. Further, there were plenty of moral philosophers and learned rabbis in those days. The idea that someone beyond a few close associates would die for such an individual seems unlikely in the extreme. Also, all the earliest sources for Christianity picture Jesus as the Son of God who conquered sin and death through His crucifixion and resurrection. Even the pagan observers saw the main distinctive of Christianity as being the worship of Jesus. The question is not the adding on of legends as additional extras, but the fundamental beliefs of Christianity being totally changed over a very brief period of time. I know of no parallel for this. This does not of course prove that Christianity is true. But it would indicate that, however it originated, it was not through growing up over time.       

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