Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dis-proving Christianity

Rumor has it someone found Jesus' tomb. This will, apparently, call into question the Resurrection. Pardon me for not shaking too terribly in my boots. I have little doubt that this will be proven a hoax in short order. The evidence is scant, to say the least, though the fellow who discovered the tomb should make a pretty penny on his little documentary. Far be it for me to suggest an ulterior motive.

But let us suppose that this filmmaker has somehow dis-proven Christianity. Maybe the faith which I share with some 2.1 billion people worldwide is a giant scam. Maybe.

And yet if Christianity is false, only a system of nonsense perpetuated by superstitious madmen, it is all the more strange that it has lasted for two thousand years. That a man named Christ was the Son of God is fantastic; that the most influential figure in human history wasn't God at all, but was only an unpopular preacher among a set of bizarre people in the Middle East is profoundly more fantastic. St. Augustine wrestles with this topic in his monumental City of God:

And the very manner in which the world's faith was won is found to be even more incredible if we consider it. Men uninstructed in any branch of a liberal education, without any of the refinement of heathen learning, unskilled in grammar, not armed with dialectic, not adorned with rhetoric, but plain fishermen, and very few in number,-these were the men whom Christ sent with the nets of faith to the sea of this world.... It is incredible that Jesus Christ should have risen in the flesh and ascended with flesh into heaven; it is incredible that the world should have believed so incredible a thing; it is incredible that a very few men, of mean birth and the lowest rank, and no education, should have been able so effectually to persuade the world, and even its learned men, of so incredible a thing. Of these three incredibles, the parties with whom we are debating refuse to believe the first; they cannot refuse to see the second, which they are unable to account for if they do not believe the third.

That Christianity is mere rubbish one could claim. But one would have to come up with an alternative explanation for its pervasiveness. Either Christ was who he said He was and Christianity is true or we are faced with something far more unbelievable than that God would deign to walk among us. Supposing Christ was merely a liar or a lunatic, how does one explain the fact that people still know of Him? If He was only a madman, why did all of His Disciples, save Judas who betrayed him, and the mystic John, who died a natural death, give up their life for His cause? Nor can anyone who has studied the Gospels fail to be surprised that the woeful Disciples found the courage to die. These had locked themselves in a room for fear of the Jews, and some fifty days after the Resurrection they are putting their very lives on the line to spread the Good News. And after establishing a Church community in Jerusalem, the Disciples went onto the ends of the earth to further establish churches, leaving the Roman Empire to be converted, almost single-handedly, by a former persecutor named Saul, now called Paul.

Strange stuff indeed. If only the world knew how strange any explanation must be, they might some day ponder the possibility of there being a great deal of truth in the unusual claim of that prophet from Galilee.

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