This week (this morning, in fact), I was hit a couple of times upside the head by things that made me think about my faith.
The first was an article that someone from my congregation posted and commented on (you can read the article here). In the article, the author shares what he proudly boasts as "Historical evidence that proves 'Jesus Christ' never existed." What is curious, though, is that he doesn't actually share any actual evidence. He makes a series of assertions, shows a couple of pictures, cites a couple of events from Church history, and then makes a couple more assertions. Evidence? Hardly.
Even more fascinating is that he completely ignored the substantial amount of evidence that Jesus did actually exist (like Josephus, the Gospel writers, Thallus, Lucian of Samosata, Paul, and others). Apparently making assertions and claiming that they are historical evidence is enough...even in the face of actual historical references.
But here is the deal: I believe in Jesus. By grace, through faith, I trust in the promises of God and the face of God that we see in Jesus. I drank the punch. I bought the line. I am in. In fact, I am all in! That is what bothers me the most. This article presents one of the worst arguments against Jesus that I have heard. It is piecemeal. It is academically irresponsible. It is biased. It is factually vacant.
And yet, the subtle message is that Christians are ignorant people who have never done their homework. We are simpletons who lack the intellectual capital to have informed opinions and so cling to faith and religious myths such as the existence of Jesus. Did you catch that? We, followers of Jesus, are the ones who are less intelligent. And this argument has caused many to question their very beliefs and to wonder if maybe they are on the wrong side of the faith fence.
This leads to the second time that I was challenged about ideas of faith and belief.
Just moments after reading the article about why Jesus never actually existed (and the responses on social media to the article), I chose to take a quick scroll through my Facebook feed. Here, I saw that Mumford & Sons had released their latest single called, "Believe". Based on what I was chewing on mentally at that moment, I decided to give it a quick listen. Here is the video:
The lyrics state, "I don't even know if I believe." So again, we have people question their beliefs. Now, to be fair, I have no idea what the band is actually singing about. They might be talking about a relationship with another person. They might be talking about their lack of belief in the American political system. They might be referencing their lack of belief in whether or not hot dogs are actually made from meat at all. I don't know....but that isn't really the point. Belief is being challenged.
Was Jesus actually real? Am I foolish for believing in Him? What would my academic friends think if they knew that I trusted a "myth"? Maybe... What if... Oh no...
I think questions are OK. It is good to think through the implications for faith. It is necessary to consider how our belief challenges and shapes our worldview. That isn't the problem. The problem is that we can far too easily get sucked into an intellectual debate where we allow some smug punk to set the terms for the discussion...and then we wonder why we can't get any traction. Worse yet, we then allow this same smug punk to challenge the God's very existence based on the calculations and fabrications of his own peanut-sized-brain. So what are we to do?
First, I believe that as followers of Jesus we must stand firm. We must understand that these articles and these arguments are fruitless. They are the meager attempts of a society in rebellion against its Creator to justify their own rebellion by claiming there is no one to actually rebel against. In other words, they are trying to disprove God so that their crazy, self-concocted ideas can stand without opposition or moral challenge. This is an extremely dangerous game...that the Church should refuse to play.
Secondly, we should remember that Jesus is not only real...He is hope. He is peace. He is loving.
In the bridge of Mumford & Sons new single, they cry out with these words: "Say something, say something like you love me." Are you ready for it? He has. He has declared His love for you. In Jesus, God has already declared His love for you. And in His word, He has said a lot about it. Trust God's proclamation to you that you are loved, that your faith is solid, and that Jesus was real. He was...and because He was, you can know what it means to be loved. Hang on to that promise.