Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Follow the Leaders

Most faiths show respect for their founders. Yes, they may change over time, but they do so slowly. No one seems to question that Buddha taught Buddhism or that Muhammad taught Islam. But it seems to be consistently questioned whether Jesus Christ taught Christianity. However, there seems no basis for this whatsoever. The New Testament is the best preserved document of all antiquity in terms of numbers of documents, closeness of their date to time of writing, their geographical distribution, and external attestation. Also, people were being put to death for being Christians within about 30 years of the crucifixion and resurrection. Now people will die for a lie. It is dubious that they would die for something they knew to be a lie. But who would die for a vague legend not fully developed yet?

It needs to be recognized what we are looking at here. We are not considering the mere growth of a legend. Legends grow up easily around the main point of the story. It is easy for a great warrior to have it attributed to him that he killed nine hundred people single-handedly. But what people want to claim with Jesus Christ is that His followers totally changed His core teaching over a short period of time. Most belief systems have one or a small number of founders who set their basic tenets. The idea of the faith slowly growing up in the community rather than being set by the actual leaders has no historical parallel. Does this seem plausible in the case of the New Testament?

The problem that we face in terms of the New Testament is that its message is fundamentally supernatural. The supernatural is not an extra, added aspect that can be simply dispensed with. The heart of Christianity is that God became a human being, died to pay the price for sin, and rose again on the third day. If this is what Christianity originally taught, then Jesus Christ was either a con-man, a madman, or who He is claimed to be: God come in the flesh. But there are those who find this inconvenient. So they claim that Jesus was something else, usually a moral philosopher. But we need to ask if that really makes sense.      

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