In last Friday’s (May 13) edition of the Nexus, opinion columnist Cameron Moody made some strong claims against Christianity, which I feel compelled to address in the interest of presenting the other side of the argument.
“The church system has hindered the progress of human rights and scientific advancement.” Actually, some of the greatest advocates for human rights have been Christians. Evangelical William Wilberforce worked to ban the slave trade in Britain. German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, horrified by the Holocaust, fought in the resistance against Nazism. And, of course, Baptist preacher Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Black Civil Rights Movement. Deep commitment to Jesus’ ethics fueled these men’s activism.
Regarding science, three pivotal scientists shared a common faith. Copernicus: Christian. Galileo: Christian. Isaac Newton: Christian. Belief in a ‘Creator God’ did not hamper their scientific curiosity, but spurred them on to observe the universe so as to discover the beauties of creation. Have wayward adherents gone against human progress? Surely, but that is the case for all belief systems, atheism included (ever heard of Stalin and Mao?), and should not be used as an indictment against the faith itself. That Christianity has its hypocrites actually lends to its support because one of its central tenets is that all humans are inherently flawed, even those seeking righteousness.
“[Its] text … must be either evil or misleading.” I assume some of the actions of God in the Old Testament are in view here. Historical context is crucial when considering His seemingly bizarre stipulations. The culture and society back then were radically different from our own. The Ancient Near East was a harsh, violent and unforgiving world. Had God demanded Israel adhere to His perfect ethics — those presented in the Sermon on the Mount — they would have rejected His law outright, as it would have been too radical of a departure from the social norms of that time and place. Therefore, a God met them halfway so that Israel’s institutions were far more humane than the people’s around them, yet still well-short of God’s supreme standard. Their conquest of Canaan was legitimate in that it administered divinely sanctioned justice on a morally evil people whose misdeeds had to be punished.
Some may think the Bible misleads people into believing in a nonexistent supernatural. If we suppose this is true, what is the harm? Does not hope — that there is something beyond this nuts-and-bolts life — count for something, if only to further happiness? As I have shown, such faith need not inhibit ethical and scientific progress if the teachings are truly followed. Even if the miracles are hogwash, those moral teachings are timeless so long as they call on us to treat one another better than ourselves.
“[Adherents] follow something without any concrete evidence.” Being a historical religion, Christianity depends on the factuality of recorded historic events. No credible historian disputes the fact that Jesus was a real person. Furthermore, virtually all agree that He died by crucifixion. His disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them, vehemently anti-Christian Paul converted to the faith due to a reported encounter with the resurrected Jesus and he and the disciples died for believing this. That His tomb was actually empty, and the disciples didn’t just concoct the story, is strongly supported by several key facts. Women — not considered credible eyewitnesses at the time — were reported as the first to see Him resurrected. A group of devastated followers, having just seen their beloved leader killed, would not have had the motivation or the audacity to make up a lie and go on to die for what they knew to be false.
Finally, writing to the Corinthians a mere twenty-some years after these events, Paul included a proto-creed analyzed by scholars to have originated only a decade after Jesus (too soon after for legend to have developed), which affirmed the truth of the resurrection and cited the testimony of hundreds of living eyewitnesses in the Jerusalem area. A number of named individuals were on hand to back up Paul’s claim by attesting to what they actually saw. This was not a matter of whether the body may have been stolen. Hundreds actually saw Christ in the flesh after His death, went around Jerusalem proclaiming this and suffered because of it. No chance all of them were hallucinating! An actual resurrection — by which Jesus validated His claim to be God — is the best historical explanation based on this evidence, thus substantiating the faith that we Christians hold to.
Daniel Phillips is a second-year geography major.