Response to Frank Viola

Frank Viola, a fairly recent addition to the Patheos Evangelical neighborhood, stirred the pot a bit with a post titled There is No Proof of God’s Existence, then followed with Why I am a Christian.

His reasons for the latter are pretty conventional, things like “Because life makes no sense to me apart from Christ. Nor does it have any purpose.” He even brings up Lewis’ Trilemma. But he ends by asking the following:

To my non-Christian readers: Without using my list as a basis for your answer — my list isn’t meant to convince you; so if you want to create a list, create your own without drawing on my points — why do you not follow Jesus?

Just like Viola, I have a lot of different answers. I’m trying to figure out the best answer that fits Viola’s style of reasoning. Like Viola I’m not intending to convince, but I’d like to at least pitch things so that they’ll be understood.

On of his reasons is “Because I’ve never seen the Gospel narratives refuted successfully.” To my ears that’s meaningless. You don’t “refute” an ancient text. No one has refuted the Roman historian Suetonius, but that does not mean I expect you to believe that Augustus was fathered by the god Apollo in the form of a giant white snake.

Based off of that, let me give this answer: When interpreted in the same fashion as other texts from the same period, the Gospels seem to depict Jesus as an apocalyptic Jewish preacher and miracle worker. His message is not so distinct from the Judaism of the time to make me believe that he had a special vision. I see no more reason to follow his teachings than any of the countless other holy men throughout the ages.

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