The post-fact world of evangelicalism
It is astonishing people will elevate feeling something (spiritual experience) is true over knowing (science) it isn’t. Reason and facts are faith’s greatest enemy and ignorance her dearest friend.
An experiences can be real even if what spawn it is not. A child’s experience of Santa Claus is genuine, powerful and noetic. The experience affirms belief in the reality said to have generated it. Alien or ghost encounters are also incredibly persuading to those experiencing them especially if they are pre-disposed to believing in them already.
If you look at all the available data objectively, free of faith bias, it is implausible the resurrection actually occurred. The preponderance of evidence unanimously leads to the conclusion the resurrection took place in the fertile imaginations of the religiously devout. Those who think otherwise are in intellectual denial. Furthermore, unless and until you have made a thorough study of the gospel data, you cannot claim to “know” anything. This is blind faith. It amounts to not wanting to know the truth for fear of what one might find. Eternal hope is at stake.
Here is the logic chain which is only as strong as its weakest link.
Premise #1: The Bible must be divinely inspired at least in part to be relied on as a source of proof (truth) Jesus rose from the dead.
If the Bible is exclusively the work of fallible and finite men and not the inerrant word of God, it has no authority on matters of the miraculous and supernatural.
Premise #2: If the Bible is divinely inspired by a perfect God via his perfect spirit, the text detailing the resurrection must be perfect or credibility is lost. If the accounts conflict, they are unreliable.
Since there were no eye witnesses to Jesus’ actual resurrection, I.e., seeing a dead body come to life, all that remains is encounters with the risen Jesus after he has already been resurrected and left the tomb. With no witnesses of the actual event itself, the only evidence remaining as the experiences of those who claim to have met the resurrected Jesus. Therefore, the four gospels which record this must be consistent and non contradictory or they cannot be trusted. God does not make factual errors.
Premise #3: Preconceived ideas about Jesus or miracles tarnish the truth. One cannot make a pre-determination then rationalize the data to make it fit what they want and hope to be true. If Jesus’ resurrection was factual, a thorough investigation will confirm it. Truth defends itself but a myth requires multiple fabrications to support it.
Since all the gospels were written by Christian believers and not dispassionate historians, there is no reason to suspect any tampering with the text to discredit the resurrection story.
Premise #4: The Bible will be treated as absolutely true and factual and strictly and strenuously judged on this basis for internal consistency and accuracy, as well as logical plausibility. If it fails to satisfy these standards, it should be rejected as carrying unquestionable historical weight on the resurrection of Jesus.
Conclusion: Faith lives in the heart not the head. Belief in the resurrection is not an intellectual pursuit, it is one firmly rooted in escape from the paralyzing fear of death and the hope of eternal life. After belief, many Christians construct elaborate theological systems to support and justify it. Theology is deductive reasoning embedded in the unwavering conviction of the resurrection. All Christian teaching ultimately flows from it and back to it.
Christians will continue to believe in the resurrection no matter how compelling the evidence is otherwise. To illustrate, if aliens came to earth and declared there was no God, many evangelicals and conservative Christians would claim these were demons masquerading as extra-terrestrials to trick the faithful and mislead unbelievers.
In my experience there are only two ways believers exit the faith. Either they have an intellectual awakening typically when go to college or university. This is a product of mental maturity. Or they or someone they love has an emotional crisis that shakes their faith and makes them doubt God. Arguing someone out of their faith is rare. They must initiate the desire to explore the legitimacy of their belief system.
We are all at different places on the path to find truth and meaning in our lives. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. I never thought for a second I would ever desert the faith and abandon Jesus whom I loved.
Throughout my evangelical experience I relied heavily on my ability to analyze and synthesize information. I filtered my reality through a biblical grid that made everything conform to and bolster my Christian worldview. The world made sense and brought me peace and gave meaning to my life. However, always lurking at the back of my mind were questions concerning Christianity. I assumed the more theological knowledge I received and deeper my commitment grew, eventually these would get resolved. They did not.
I have been on a long and arduous journey for many decades. I have dedicated my life to painstakingly combing through the Bible in my quest for truth. It has been extremely rewarding but also has taken its toll on me and those I care about. I have left a wake of hurt and suffering behind me. To say this has been an obsession would not be an exaggeration. Countless sleepless nights and each day consumed by research has been my normal. Many times I wondered if my quest would ever end. Would I finally find the closure I craved?
I do not have all the answers to life’s many riddles but I can say one thing with unbridled certitude. Based on decades of critically interacting with the writings of the biblical authors and Church Fathers, an historical examination of Christianity and evangelicalism and utilizing the principles of logic and reason, Jesus did not literally rise from the dead! His resurrection was an experiential reality based on his missing body. Therefore the Bible is not the Word of God and Christianity is an ancient irrational superstition.
My purpose is not to offend but to inform. These articles are intended to raise questions to provide seeds of doubt which one day may take root and grow. The stakes are getting higher each day when it come to religious belief. Rights and freedoms, environmental viability, political stability, scientific respectability are all threatened by ideological thinking derived from a book which has been given a divine status it neither earned nor deserves. The time has come to dethrone it and replace it with humanism as the rightful ruler of mankind and controller of our destiny.