Christian Apologetics — essentially the defense of the Christian faith — is a field that is almost completely foreign to me. In fact, it was completely foreign to me until I had the opportunity to attend a Christian Apologetics class at Denver Seminary. The class was interesting, but since I don’t consider myself a Christian, there were definitely a few things I was put off by.
The subject of this particular class was the Resurrection of Jesus. I tried to keep in mind that I do not consider myself a Christian, and everyone in the seminary does claim to be Christian, so the audience and the lecture style would be very different than what you might find at a secular school. For example, prayer was completely acceptable, which I suppose I should have expected in a seminary, and I did not find this inappropriate considering the setting.
The instructor began the class with a story about a conversation he had with a young woman (he couldn’t remember her name, though he spoke with her for 30 minutes). He said, and I quote, “what do you do when you know you have the answers but the person will not listen?” He kept providing her arguments, and she kept refuting his arguments without citing any sources. He of course cited numerous books that helped “prove” his arguments. I find it very difficult to accept an argument as truth simply because the person cites numerous sources that are clearly going to support the argument because they are written from the same viewpoint — especially when we are talking about something that is so ancient that it is difficult for us to really know 2000 years later. Not to mention, isn’t faith, at least to some extent, something you have to feel in your heart? I believe it is, and I therefore believe that lack of faith (or lack of the same faith as someone else) can be exactly the same thing, regardless of how many sources you can cite that support your belief. He also kept saying that the arguments the young woman was making were irrational. All I could think about at the time was that both sides say the other is presenting an irrational argument. So, one or both people do not understand what a rational argument looks like, and both sides automatically assume the other is wrong anyway, regardless of how rational the arguments actually are.
One of the topics discussed surrounded the fact that Christianity is the only religion based on the resurrection of the “founder” of the religion. The resurrection represents hope for the universe. Because Jesus experienced the entirety of hell on the cross for his people — physical, yes, but more importantly, spiritual hell — the death and resurrection were central to Christ’s teachings, and prove that a God exists. To this I say so what?? This only holds if you accept the death and resurrection as true, and you believe this story. Obviously non-Christians either don’t accept this story as true and factual, or they believe it may have happened but it is irrelevant or unimportant. There are also non-Christians who believe the story is true and factual but also believe the teachings of newer religions, which build on Christianity (Baha’i’s, for example). It may be easier to convince someone who believes the story but thinks it is unimportant that god exists using this argument, but if you’re going to try to convince someone who does not accept the story as true, then you’re going to need to prove it’s true first before jumping straight to the existence of god. And in many cases, the non-Christian already believes in god, just not in the Christian notion of god. So again, you’re back to proving the validity of the story itself rather than the existence of a god.
A couple of notes about some comments that were made during class are in order. First of all, it was stated that a great deal of Islam can be explained by demonic influence. I find this statement interesting, especially because there was absolutely no supporting information behind it — it was simply thrown out there, and then the instructor moved on. In addition, there were many other comments thrown in throughout the discussion that clearly indicated this particular instructor’s attitude toward all people who do not accept Christianity. The word “ignoramuses” was, in fact, used to describe the whole of the non-Christian population. I find it interesting and frankly unacceptable that people who believe they are living their lives in accordance with the way Jesus would have lived his life continue to take such a negative and compassion-less view toward those who disagree with them. No matter how right you think you are, there is always a possibility you have something wrong, or inaccurate, or we don’t yet have all of the information.
Some of the questions I came out of that class with were:
1. Isn’t it possible that it is simply human nature to assign meaning to events, even those that appear to be miracles, whether there is actually significant meaning or not? It was humans, who are not and have never been perfect, who assigned meaning to the biblical miracles. Perhaps there was simply no better way to explain what happened.
2. Is is possible that those who “witnessed” the death and resurrection weren’t completely aware of what they were seeing? Or, didn’t know something that we might know today?
3. How is the lack of compassion of some Christians toward non-Christians explained? In some cases, it goes beyond a lack of compassion to blatant hatred for those who are not Christians. I cannot think of one good argument for hating those members of mankind who disagree with your religious views. Why is it any of your business where I end up in the afterlife, anyway?
4. Why do we assume human beings were “better” 2000 years ago? What I mean is, why are we assuming people didn’t lie, or start rumors, or make mistakes about what they saw or heard? Isn’t it possible that something was misrepresented, and then once it was misrepresented and the word spread, the only option was to continue with the lie? I’m certainly not saying this is what happened, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.
I am aware of the fact that there are years of research, examples, and “proof” of the events in the Bible. But, there are also years of research, examples, and “proof” that refute the events in the Bible — or at the very least that call those events into question.
I must admit, I have come to the conclusion recently that even if I did accept the Bible as true, I am not sure I would want to consider myself a Christian (at least not in the traditional “attend church and become part of the larger Christian community” sense). I know that not all Christians believe they are better than non-Christians solely because of the fact that they are Christian. Unfortunately, those that do believe they are better than non-Christians tend to have the louder voices and actions. I do not believe any human beings, regardless of religious affiliation, should feel superior based on their religion because frankly, there is just too much that is unknown and uncertain, regardless of how many sources you spit at me and expect me to take at face value.