Think about it. The basic tenants of the Christian faith are that a carpenter from a small town in Israel was crucified by the Roman Empire, buried, rose again from the dead, and that faith in these events is what gets one into heaven. These are just the basics. We could make a long list. To be a faithful Christian, one must believe:
#1 The Virgin Birth A young Jewish girl of 13 or 14, engaged to be married, turns up pregnant. When Jesus is born, his mother Mary is still a virgin. If Jesus is the Messiah (chosen one, rendered Christ in the Greek) he must fulfill the virgin born prophesy of Isaiah 8. Virgin birth is also required for #2 to be true.
#2 Son of God Mary is pregnant by immaculate conception, which is to say the child she carries is miraculously the offspring of God. Jesus is born into the lineage of David, by his birth mother, and carries the bloodline of God himself. Which brings us to…
#3 The God Man Jesus is not just the Son of God, the way we are all children of God, he is Emmanuel, “God with us.” This fulfills prophecies in Isaiah 9, and means that Jesus is actually God in the form of a man. He is fully God and fully man at the same time. Even if you believe immaculate conception, virgin birth, and God/man, this is still not the hard stuff.
#4 Miracles of Jesus During his 3 1/2 ministry, Jesus walked on water, calmed wind and sea, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, cast out demons, and raised the dead. While being fully human, he still commanded the forces of nature with supernatural ability; but only where people had faith. In his hometown, for instance, there was little faith and he could perform few miracles.
#5 Death on the Cross It may not be hard to believe that being nailed to a cross, after a harsh beating, could kill a person. The Romans crucified thousands. But in light of the resurrection, many claim that Jesus simply passed out or lapsed into a comma. There were no CAT scans or EKG readings in those days. Many non-believers simply claim that Jesus was never dead, and dismiss the resurrection.
#6 The Resurrection Jesus died on a Friday evening, and was buried in a sealed tomb with armed guards. On Sunday morning, 2 women found the tomb empty. Their initial response is that the body of Jesus has been stolen away, and they don’t know where. They think the Romans have moved the body, the Roman and Jewish leaders blame the disciples for stealing it. Faith in Christ means that one believes Jesus died, was buried for 3 days, and them came back to life: by his own power.
Now, here’s the deal. I am a Christian leader; I teach and minister. I didn’t write this list to destroy your faith, or help atheists defend their position. I gave you these things to say this: If Christianity were a lie, we would come up with a better lie. This is just too far out there to work as fiction, at least if you’re trying to be believable.
Let’s examine our sources. The story of Jesus is recorded in the 4 gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Only Matthew and John were disciples, and of those Matthew (Levi) had been a tax collector, and most Jews hated him. John’s gospel varies greatly from the others, is not in chronological order, and assumes from the beginning one believes Jesus is God before even telling the story. Mark and Luke record events second hand, Mark being an associate of Peter, not the most stable guy in the world, and Luke is the physician of Paul, a “later” disciple of Jesus. If the early Christians were lying, or fake, they would have come up with more believable authors, like perhaps a Gospel of Peter, or the Gospel of Mary. By the way, such documents do exist, but were dismissed as fakes by the early Christian church. The early church recognized the true stories of Jesus, despite their seemingly “low quality” of authorship. It must be the truth, because it’s a pretty sorry lie.
Also consider that when the gospels came out, other contemporaries of Jesus were still alive. If the stories were exaggerated or untrue, someone would have been writing letters that said so. A “here’s what really happened” essay, or other historians would have alternate histories. The Pharisee church leaders disagreed about what the events meant, but even they didn’t try to claim the events of Jesus life, recorded in the gospels, didn’t happen.
Look at Jesus’ words and actions in the gospels. This post is getting long, so let’s say this: He is either who is says he is (the Son of God, God in flesh, the Messiah) or he is out of his mind. He is either Emmanuel, or a stark raving mad lunatic. There were a lot of “messiahs” before and after Jesus, but this one started a movement that is still growing today. There must be something to that.
The first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection were women. The first century Jews would not even hear the testimony of a woman in court. If the disciples were lying about the resurrection, they would have not claimed Mary Magdalene, former prostitute, saw him alive first. The tomb was sealed, and guarded. The official cover story circulated at the time was that the guards fell asleep. All of them; at the same time.
Paul himself says that preaching the cross sounds foolish. Living the Christian life requires one to strive for perfection. To a Christian, lusting after a beautiful woman is the same as sleeping with her, and equates to adultery. All of this taken together means:
Christianity must be true. If it’s all a bunch of lies, they are the worst crafty lies in the history of telling lies. The liars went terribly wrong in lots of places. If it’s a lie, there are so many gaps, inconsistencies, and apparent contradictions that it never would have survived scrutiny. Yet those that have studied it carefully, highly intelligent people with advanced degrees, have their faith strengthened by their research. Jesus is either a lunatic (despite shutting down the scribes and Pharisees at every turn with his understanding of Hebrew scripture and human nature) or the Son of God. Christians are either spreading the truth of God, or repeating the worst pack of unbelievable lies in history. You know what they say: The truth is stranger than fiction.