Throwing tantrums

I received this e-mail today. I thought it was very interesting. I have to admit that I signed the petition described in this e-mail. I now think that was a mistake. I’ve received e-mails from the American Family Association before and have signed some of their petitions, but some of them I have not signed because I found them disturbing. For example, one petition was against a bill that would make killing a homosexual a hate crime. They said that it would lead to making homosexuals a protected class and listed numerous special privileges they could eventually receive if the bill was passed. I actually read the bill and, the ironic thing was that the same bill mentioned religious groups as potential hate crime targets as well. So, the American Family Association wanted special protection for Christians but not homosexuals? I wrote them back and said “you ought to be ashamed of yourselves”, but, of course the e-mail was bounced back to me. Feel free to weigh in on this issue of Christians bullying non-believers. I fear that much of what passes for American evangelical Christianity has become radicalized in a way that is not consistent with the portrayal of Jesus in the four gospels. Do you agree? Let me know what you think.

Wailing at the Tomb?

Christians Should Face the Facts in The Discovery Documentary

By Gregory Koukl

The documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” hadn’t even aired yet and many Christians were already in a panic. Just the suggestion that someone found Jesus’ bones in a limestone box had believers by the droves shaking their fists or sticking their heads in the sand in a don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts posture.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus Apparently, many Christians don’t even need to see the evidence to pass judgment. When one Evangelical web site polled its visitors with the question, “Do you believe the ‘Tomb of Jesus’ documentary, which denies the resurrection of Christ?” 97% said no. This was three days before the documentary even aired. Blind faith is so convenient, isn’t it? You never have to actually confront your critics.

Then there’s the bullies. One media watchdog demanded Discovery “cancel this slanderous ‘documentary.’” Another prominent Evangelical organization composed this letter for their constituents to hammer Discovery with:

“I resent the Discovery Channel’s attempt to demean and belittle Christianity by saying it is based on a lie. It is hard for me to believe that The Discovery Channel would dare do such a ‘documentary’ on any other religion.

“It may turn out that you have done Christianity a favor by awakening millions of Christians to your anti-Christian bias and bigotry. Perhaps they will no longer stay silent.”

This kind of bullying is profoundly embarrassing to me, a follower of Christ, and should be discomfiting to every thoughtful Christian. It is not only a dismal retreat from a legitimate challenge that must be answered; it’s obscurantist.

Look, if the Bible says it and you believe it, that might settle it for you, but it doesn’t settle it for millions who might be interested in your ideas and are waiting to hear a thoughtful response to what appears on the surface to be a fair challenge.

There are good reasons to doubt the conclusions of this documentary, but no one will ever know them if Christians pull up the drawbridge and bellow from the parapet. Having seen the documentary, here are some problems that quickly come to mind:

Scholars have known about these tombs for over 25 years. There’s a reason they haven’t taken these names seriously. Only three have any direct biblical significance: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And that cluster of names is statistically unremarkable. In fact, it would be odd if a family with those three names was not found in a tomb together, given their common use (there are at least four ossuaries discovered inscribed “Jesus, son of Joseph,” and one in four women were named Mary, so it’s even money that one of these tombs would have that combination). And connection of Jesus to any of the other names? Wild speculation. So what you have here is a creative guessing game.
The entire argument is based on the statistical significance of the names in a cluster. If Jesus was married, and if Jesus was married to a woman named Mariamne, and if Mariamne was also a nickname for Mary Magdalene, and if Jesus had a brother named Matthew, and if Jesus had a son named Judas, and if the now-famous James ossuary belonged to James the brother of Jesus, then you’d have all the members of Jesus’ family together in one tomb. But that’s a lot of “ifs.
Even though this is called the “Jesus Family Tomb,” there is no hard evidence that any of these so-called “family members” is even related. The only DNA testing that’s been done—between Jesus and Mariamne—came up negative. Let me repeat that: The DNA test came up negative. That is fact. The rest is speculation.
The documentary claims, “Jesus and Mary were married, as the DNA evidence suggests.” This is nonsense. Think about it. How can DNA evidence suggest someone is married? DNA can’t “suggest” anything about legal relationships, only biological ones. In this case, the DNA evidence showed Jesus and Mary were not related by a mother, not that they were husband and wife. The truth is, she could have been married to any one of the males in the tomb, or to none of them for that matter. The DNA “suggests” nothing.
The researchers claim they’re just trying to connect the dots? Fair enough. But why connect the dots the way they did? I’ll tell you why. Because it tells their story. There are many other legitimate ways to connect those same dots—some much more probable than the way the documentary connects them, but won’t give the story they’re promoting. But, of course, that wouldn’t create breaking news, would it?
Jesus’ family was a poor family from Nazareth, not a middle- to upper-class family from Jerusalem. So this tomb is the wrong kind of tomb located in the wrong city.
The documentary claims Jesus spoke in codes. This is false. Jesus spoke in parables, like many of the teachers of His day, not in codes that needed to be deciphered. They say Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ most trusted apostle. But you have to wait 400 years before this evidence pops up in any alleged historical record. They said that Jesus’ family members were executed because He was a pretender to throne of Israel. This is pure fiction. Notice what this accomplishes, though. All of these little exaggerations and inaccuracies make an unlikely tale sound more plausible when, on its own unembellished merits, it is not.
What we have here are two different characterizations of what happened to the body of Jesus of Nazareth 2,000 years ago. One is based on artifacts—the ossuaries—and one is based on documents—the historical records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul. Now granted, these kinds of things are not entirely exact science, but all things being equal, which do you think gives us more precise information, bone boxes or written records? The written records, obviously.
The claim of Jesus’ resurrection, was part of the earliest, most primitive testimony regarding Jesus. And it was made by those very same people that the documentary suggests knew Jesus’ bones were actually secretly buried in Jerusalem. Why would so many of them die for this lie when they knew it was a lie? It doesn’t add up. But that’s what you must believe if you take seriously the conclusions of this documentary.

If Christianity stands or falls on the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection, as the Apostle Paul said, then Christ’s followers have no liberty to retreat behind blind faith or hide behind an angry scowl.

No, if you’re a Christian you shouldn’t run, whine, scream, or have a religious tantrum. Instead, you should be thanking the Discovery Channel for giving you the chance to step up to the plate and knock this soft ball out of the park.

Posted on March 7, 2007, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Aaron,I have two thoughts on what you posted.1. I always oppose bills for hate crimes. To hate is a right, no matter how wrong, so the the crime is what we punish. The whole idea weirds me out.Prosecutor-“I intend to prove that this man killed John..”Court- [murmurs]Prosecutor- ” and I will also prove that it was a hate crime!”Court- [ entire crowd gasps and somewhere a baby starts crying ]Is the murder of the person not enough to put someone behind bars for life. What an insult to the victim!2. There are two main classes of people who are against these kind of challenges to Christianity- The Simple and the Scared.The Simple are those who got saved because it sounded good and they want to be on the winning team. They feel good being called a christian and haven’t really studied it for themselves and this is the level that is comfortable for them. They stand against anything that challenges their faith because it is inconvenient for them and causes them to have to get out of their comfort zone in order to maintain their faith.The Scared are those who have studied Christianity and want to believe it so bad that they may go their whole life saying that they do, but have never felt God move in their life because they are unwilling to give up certain sins. These people know that their faith hangs by a thread and are scared of anything that will challenge it, because they are hoping that eventually their life will change based on the fact that they proclaim to be a christian. They are convinced of the reality of God, but what they aren’t convinced about is that they will ever have a relationship with him. If someone shows them something that challenges their knowledge then they may stop claiming their christianity and just give up because they know that they will never be able to get themselves to stop sinning with all of the knowledge that they have. Therefore it is easier for these people to simply stamp out anything that may possibly challenge their religious knowledge before it ever meets with their eyes or ears. These people live very tortured lives because they are proud of their knowledge yet are caught in a lie about who they really are/aren’t in Christ.People who truly believe in the Bible and have studied it meet these challenges head on with glee because it usually stands to strengthen their faith.Wow, I can see my house from on top of this soap box!Pete

  2. Pete,Thank you for your comment. I think what you said was well thought out. Let me give you some food for thought on the hate crime issue. I understand exactlly what you are saying and have thought the same things before. I agree that murder is murder and we shouldn’t make it a crime to hate someone. Having said that, I do understand the logic behind hate crime legislation. Someone who kills for ideological reasons (like neo-nazis and klansmen) are far more dangerous to society than someone who kills because of a personal vendetta. I think that those who kill just because they hate black people or homosexuals are more likely to kill again for the same reasons. This is why I feel that hate crimes should receive harsher punishement, for the protection of would be targets of hate crime. I think there can be sane standards to determine what is a hate crime and what is not.Having said all that, I certainly understand those who take your position. That is not what disturbed me about the e-mail. What disturbed me was the hypocrisy. The same bill that the American Family Association said would supposedly make homosexuals a special class with special rights applied equally to Christians. No concern was displayed in the e-mail about making Christians a special class, only homosexuals. It’s like they were saying, “We don’t mind if we get special rights. We just don’t want anyone else to have them.”Even if you disagree with hate crimes legislation, the question still remains. If Jesus were around today, would He be spending His time bombarding people’s e-mails trying to lobby the government against protecting gays?

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