Putting the cart before the resurrected horse
I’ve heard Christians say that what one must do is look at the life of Jesus, and decide what you make of him. This is the basis of Alpha Courses and, in my experience, it’s the way many Christians approach Christian apologetics or evangelism. ‘What do you think Jesus meant when he said x?’ ‘What did it mean for the Jews when y happened?’ ‘Wasn’t the love shown by x to y a perfect sacrifice as prophesied in z?’ etc etc.
The belief is that the Bible, in this case, is reliable reportage – miraculously accurate and by its very nature irrefutable. Christians believe there is enough evidence to decide that water was turned to wine, dead men were raised and thousands of ready cooked fishes materialized from thin air. And furthermore, that there was no other important (perhaps more private) relevant statements made that were not reported in the book.
Surely the decision to believe this is at the very least a cognitive event. In the same way that I do not believe in ghosts (until convinced otherwise), I need to decide whether I accept the Bible / Koran (or 100s of other religious holy books) to be reliable. The tools I use to make this decision must be, for the most part, external to the stories/claims contained within the texts. The Koran making a statement that the Koran is true and I must accept that or go to hell, frankly is not very convincing. The same applies to other holy books. In fact, I could write one tomorrow, say something similar, and have just as much credibility.
However, once I have come to the decision that the Bible IS reliable, then its game over, you can consider me a Christian (same for Koran/Muslim). I propose that there is no one, of sane mind, alive on earth who accepts that the Bible is accurate in its reportage of what Jesus did and said… who still says he is not a Christian.
I state again, if you think the Bible is accurate and reliable, then there is no need to get involved in manipulative pleas like ‘Jesus loves you, just reach out and accept the gift, let him into your heart’. It’s irrelevant how ‘caring, wise and loving’ Jesus was. If he’s god, he’s god. Even if he’s a genocidal monster I’ll bow down since you convinced me at ‘accurate and reliable’. One does not need to meditate on the nature of Jesus and decide if you want to follow him – his nature is irrelevant to the quality of the reportage. Furthermore if you try to hear mystical voices in your head (or your heart!?), its very likely they will oblige.
So why do Christians not say this? Why are the Alpha Courses and sermons structured with questions such as: Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus die? How does God guide us?
Why? Because the logic would then be that redemption actually comes from accepting the Bible as accurate, rather than admitting you’re a sinner and that Jesus was the son of god etc etc.
Whether or not the Bible is reliable is a cognitive decision. How do we make cognitive decisions? – through analyzing the evidence. How do we make better decisions? Through application of our intellect and education. It’s obvious, but needs stating, that the better our intellect and education, the more likely we are to make correct analytical decisions. Therefore the smarter one is, the more likely they are to be a Christian? Hmmmmmm.
Christians will then insert the ‘faith’ word. However, any old faith won’t do. It needs to be faith in the ‘correct’ god. So unless people who have never heard of the bible are having Jesus-redemption narratives miraculously planted in their heads (which actually wouldn’t require any faith either) – we’re back again the reliability of the bible.
Fact is that the overwhelming majority (90% according to one statistic) of people on earth carry on with the world-view of their parents and they can’t ALL be correct. Anyone who holds the religious world view which is prevalent in their society needs to be ultra skeptical about it, and assure themselves that the tenets are objectively reliable – if they seek a better understanding of the world around us.