Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is Christianity a Myth? You Tube Video posted by atheists challenges the Christian faith

One of our teens, Corey, asked me to watch and comment on a YouTube video (here is the link which says that Christianity is just a bunch of myths drawn from Greco-Roman and other religions of the 1st century. Here is my response.

I can remember when I first learned about some apparent parallels between Christianity and religious myths, the thought did pass through my mind, Is all of this made up?

Here are some things to consider:
1. The authors draw upon parallels in Greco-Roman culture to try to prove that Christianity is just borrowed from the culture of the 1st century. However, the roots of Christianity go back to the time of the ancient Hebrews (and before), which are far further back in time than Grecro-Roman culture. Note the following:
- Gen 3 - prophecy about the son of the woman (Jesus) crushing the head of the serpent (Satan)
- Gen 12 - through one of Abraham's descendants (Jesus), all people will be blessed
- Check out Psalm 22, which describes in amazing detail many of the events at Jesus' resurrection--crying out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", division of clothing, mockery
- Isaiah 53, which again has striking parallels to Jesus' trial and crucifixion
- There are many, many more "prophecies" in the OT from which the NT could draw its material

2. Just because there are parallels, this does not mean something is derived from these parallels.
Even if you want to say that something is made up, people around the world come up with the same invention at the same time, independently of one another. This is why we have patents. A direct link must be proven, not assumed. This is a fundamental truth of historical-critical analysis. And scholarship in recent years attributes Christianity's roots to Judaism, not Hellenistic thought. For instance, the emphasis upon light and darkness in Johannine thought was once thought to come from gnostic dualism. Then the Dead Sea scrolls were found, and it was discovered that this dualism was found in the Essene community, a form of Judaism.

Furthermore, it is possible that other religions derived certain elements from the faith of the Israelites or historical reality, rather than vice versa. For instance, flood accounts can be found in many different cultures. Does this mean that the biblical flood story is made up and borrowed from these other accounts? Or was there a large regional flood or universal flood as recorded in Genesis, which people took with them as they scattered into different parts of the world? Parallels in themselves prove nothing.

3. There is a uniqueness to Christianity that cannot be denied. No other faith has a crucified Savior, who is God in the flesh, who sacrifices himself out of love for humanity. Justin Martyr is quoted in the video as saying that Christianity has parallels in other religions. Here is the quote: (see

"And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; AEsculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Caesar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre? And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it an honourable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire."

Yes, Justin Martyr says that there are parallels between Christianity and religions of his time. He is seeking to do so, ironically, because Christians are being charged with atheism! This in itself points to the uniqueness of Christianity, at least as it was viewed by those in the 1st and 2nd century. And in this quote he points out one of the fundamental differences between these two faiths. Jupiter was a monster who killed his parents and went around violating women. Christ was the sinless son of God, who sacrificed himself for humanity. Despite some parallels (which of themselves, prove nothing), the two faiths are not even close in substance.

4. What is the alternative? The authors of this clip offer no alternatives to our universe, how we came to be, why we are here, what the purpose of life is, or any of the other great questions that we must ask. They have no answers. None.

In the end, however, I believe that in a postmodern culture the "truth" of Christianity can only be found in experiencing it, trying it out, and seeing if it rings true. I would encourage anyone to try living the Christian life, and see if they are not blessed.

Thanks, Corey, for asking good questions and helping us respond to atheists.

What do you think of the video? Was it challenging to your faith? Did the above commentary help you deal with these challenges?