February 28, 2007

Jesus' Bones Found! Sleep in on Sunday

Have you heard the news? Apparently the family tomb of Jesus has been found in a Jerusalem neighborhood (Talpiot), complete with the ossuaries and bones of His mother, brothers, Jesus Himself, His wife Mary, and His son! James Cameron, of Titanic fame, has been kind enough to produce a Discovery Channel documentary to fill us in on this remarkable find. What does this all mean? Well, if true, it means at least this much:

  • Dan Brown (of The Da Vinci Code) was wrong in claiming that Mary Magdalene left the crucified Jesus for France and lived and died there with her child.

  • John Dominic Crossan was wrong to claim that Jesus was buried in a shallow grave and eaten by dogs.

  • Jesus didn't really live in India and have a tomb in Kashmir after all.

  • The Jesus-never-existed types need to repent of their presumption and poor historical analysis.

  • Muhammad was wrong and Muslims are following a false prophet who claimed that Jesus didn't really die on the cross but, instead, was taken up to heaven by Allah.

  • The family and followers of Jesus were idiots for burying Him in Jerusalem (putting his name on the box no less), right in the heart of the conspiracy; and His Roman and Jewish enemies were incompetent fools for not finding the counter-evidence right under their own noses.

  • Names like Mary, Jesus, and Joseph are not really some of the most common of that era like we once believed.

  • The James ossuary, which Cameron ties in with this find, isn't a forgery after all, as some insist.

  • James Cameron is a genius and all the liberal scholars and archaeologists who thought this theory unconvincing are morons for having neglected this find since it was first brought to light in 1980.

  • James Tabor, who released a book about all this last year (The Jesus Dynasty), will have to surrender his view that Jesus' real father was a Roman soldier named Panthera.

  • If you're buried too close to someone whose DNA does not match you maternally, then you must be married to them.

  • Statistical calculations only need be done on the data that fits your theory. All contrary data may be ignored.

  • The relatives and friends of Jesus' departed family liked long hikes and funeral processions, since they preferred a tomb that was miles away from their home towns of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Galilee.

  • The Acts of Phillip, which contains stories even more fantastic than the four Gospels, and which scholars have always taken to be a 4th Century work at the earliest, is actually an authoritative document from which someone like Cameron may appeal to make his case.

  • As St. Paul says, we Christians "are of all men most to be pitied" for believing in a raised Christ (1 Co 15:19).

  • Contrary to Cameron's insistence that we can still believe in the resurrection as a spiritual event and maintain our "faith," we must accept that the authors of Scripture were liars and the whole New Testament is tainted by their dishonesty.

  • The disciples of Jesus were psychotic fools to propagate this lie, which offered only persecution and death with no personal payoff.

  • If you are a Bible believing Christian, you can now sleep in on Sunday.

  • If you are a liberal Christian, you are not so much affected, though you should ask yourself once again just why it is you call yourself a "Christian" and how you even know what Jesus really taught given that His biographers were such conspiracists.

For some critical reviews of Cameron's titanic folly, see the following:

Christian:
Problems Multiply for Jesus Tomb Theory (Ben Witherington)
A Skeleton in God's Closet? Paul Maier Responds (Stand To Reason and Justin Taylor)
James White's rundown on this topic
Hollywood Hype: The Oscars and Jesus’ Family Tomb, What Do They Share? (Darrell Bock)
Don’t Lose Any Sleep Over Jesus’ Lost Tomb (Pulpit Magazine)
Has the tomb of Jesus been found? (CARM)
Wailing at the Tomb (Townhall.com)

Secular:
Archaeologists, scholars dispute Jesus documentary (CNN)
Is This Jesus' Tomb? (Time)
Raiders of the Lost Tomb (Newsweek)
The Jesus Hoax (Huffington Post)
Special Report: Has James Cameron Found Jesus's Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error? (Scientific American)

February 11, 2007

10 Questions for the Seeker

There is much talk about the proverbial "spiritual seeker," which many religions zealously court and who is alleged to be on a journey toward truth. But who are these seekers? What are they looking for and what are they willing to accept as truth? And what roadmap are they willing to use to guide their paths? Here are some questions designed to stir the mind of the seeker, and to give touchstones for dialog to Christians seeking to reach them.

  1. What is it that you are searching for? Are you looking for Truth with a capital "T" — an objective truth — or are you just looking for something that "works" for you? Will any old path do so long as it suits your taste? Are you just enjoying the "journey" or are you looking to a destination?
     
  2. Are you prepared to accept a truth that causes you inconvenience, or that asserts that you are in the wrong on some of your ideas and behaviors? Do you think that it is possible to enjoy doing things that are actually wrong?
     
  3. Is the truth something that can be contradicted? Do you think that other seekers who have settled on different and conflicting truths could be wrong, or that you may be wrong and they right? What role do you think reason, logic, and evidence play in determining truth? Do feelings trump these? If so, what do you do with people who believe contradictory things but "feel" the same as you about their beliefs?
     
  4. If there is a true religion, do you think that it would be possible for any of its followers to be pretenders and hypocrites? Must truth be perfectly practiced in order to qualify as truth? Do we judge a religion by those who most consistently follow it or by those who violate its principles?
     
  5. Do you see problems in this world? Do you think people do bad things and have bad motives? Is it possible that many people are not really looking to surrender to a higher truth?
     
  6. How do you think morality and your conscience fits into this? Do your moral intuitions tell you anything about truth and the maker of this cosmos? Do you think you've ever committed any moral crimes? What is to be done with these and what do you do with your guilt?
     
  7. Do you just prefer to be "spiritual" and not "religious?" Do you dislike "organized religion?" If there really is an objective truth, and others can come to know it too, is it sensible that common followers of that truth would seek out each other's company, deliberately organize, and even have spiritual elders and administrative leaders where the numbers warranted?
     
  8. Have you considered that this truth could have intruded upon history? Do you think that if Truth is personal that it might have spoken and you can look for evidence of that revelation? Do you think that such a revelation would be authoritative and trustworthy, or do you suppose that it could be hopelessly muddled by human involvement?
     
  9. The Judeo-Christian tradition is one of the most well-documented, historical, and ancient. Have you considered that this could be the actual point at which God has intervened in this world — is it not a prime candidate? Have you actually read the Bible (perhaps the New Testament, or just the Gospels), or even just heard an exposition of the core beliefs of historic Christianity (rather than having a narrow church experience or taking the secular stereotypes at face-value)? Have you honestly sought to have your questions or objections addressed by Christians who are best equipped to do so, such as theologians and apologists? Have you read anything near the number of books on Christianity that you have on other beliefs that you are entertaining? Did you know that there is a whole historical body of literature devoted to explaining Christianity and answering the tough questions?
     
  10. Are you serious about your search or is it more of a hobby? Would you be willing to pray to this divine entity that you are seeking to help you come to the truth, whatever the cost?

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February 06, 2007

"Jesus was Wrong"

I watched a rather drab movie this weekend called Little Miss Sunshine. (Note to self: "acclaimed by the Academy" = "you won't like it.") The teenage boy in the movie was a disciple of Nietzsche and wore T-shirts throughout to reflect that fact. One of the T-shirts I found interesting because it expressed an idea that you just don't hear very often from critics of Christianity. It simply said, "Jesus was wrong."

While some on the radical fringe of skepticism opt for the denial of the existence of Jesus altogether, most people are quite friendly toward some historical perspective of Jesus. Of course, it is usually a desupernaturalized and purely human portrait that they prefer to see (though some of the alternate religions will take Him on a semi-divine basis). Jesus as a social reformer and moral teacher is an image that even hardened atheists can get behind. But the statement on this T-shirt is unique in that it denies all these historical reworkings of the Biblical Jesus.

To say that "Jesus was wrong" implies three things.

The first is that you don't like what He had to say. But if you are comfortable redacting the Biblical Jesus to fit your preconceptions of Him, then there is nothing with which to take issue. Is it mere coincidence that the liberal scholars often land on a portrait of "the real Jesus" to which they are partial or sympathetic? I don't believe that I've ever heard a skeptic argue for, say, a Hitleran Jesus whom the Romans did well to exterminate. This T-shirt slogan implies some curious objectivity.

Second, you think that He actually said the things which you find to be wrong. The unspoken assumption here is that what the Bible records is what Jesus actually said; and what Jesus said was just plain mistaken. What else could this statement mean? What sense would it be to say, "That which Jesus actually said, which we don't really have a proper record of anyway, is just plain wrong"? It is pretty clear that what the wearer of this T-shirt is so exercised about is the biblical portrait of Jesus. And why not be? If Jesus really made the claims that the Bible attributes to Him, and He was indeed wrong, then He was a teacher of extreme hubris. Imagine me telling you that I existed before Abraham, that no one can get to God except through me, and that I will be judging your sorry butt at the end of time! If the authors of Scripture documented Jesus' words accurately, and He actually was not God-in-the-flesh, then this boy's T-shirt is an understatement! The Jews would have been justifiably zealous to bring this heretical lunatic to trial.

Third, you think there is an objective truth about spiritual matters and that Jesus has shipwrecked Himself upon that truth. That may be a rational position for some, but this boy in the movie favored Nietzsche, who some have claimed to have lain the very groundwork for postmodern relativism. The biggest irony of all is that this boy had taken a vow of silence, and when asked why by one of his co-stars toward the beginning of the movie he merely pointed to a picture of Nietzsche. Initially, I took this to be an admirably principled stance based on the philosophy that life and all ideas are ultimately meaningless, thus it is vacuous to utter any statement at all. But then he went and negated his whole worldview by putting on that T-shirt. It would appear that the dogmatic denial of the historical Jesus trumps all need for rational coherence.

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Westminster Presbyterian Church Columbia, TN