I defy anyone, anywhere to find a single word that encapsulates evangelical or conservative Christians better than irrationalism. There isn’t one! Furthermore, I challenge anyone who disagrees to rationally defend themselves. They can’t.
I say this to both my chagrin and my pride: I have invested tens of thousands of hours in researching Jesus, the Bible and Christianity. It has been my one and only all consuming passion and obsession. Day and night for yours have been spent in free and critical thinking on these matters. I have wandered off the prescribed path of Christian theology to explore the dark corners of independent thought. It has been immensely rewarding (intellectually) while at the same time bringing endless pain and suffering to me and those close to me. I have paid the price to gain the clarity I now have. All the pieces of the puzzle fit neatly and the picture is crystal clear.
Jesus was just a man albeit one who mistakenly thought he was an eschatological prophet and even the messiah of Israel for a short while. The Bible may be a collection of writings that have had inestimable influence, both good and bad, in Western Civilization but in the end it is still just a book. It is the product of ancient mens’ religiously addled pre-scientific imaginations. They can be excused for their primitive understanding of our world.
I have proclaimed for decades that Christianity rests in the heart not the heads of men and women. Even when the Age of Enlightenment modernized Christian thought, nothing could dislodge faith’s place in the irrational part of many Christians. Hope in an eternal abode was not about to be surrendered at the behest of science.
Christianity has had a long and auspicious life. No one disputes this. It has also had and has its share of scandals and atrocities. But perhaps it has long overstayed its welcome. We no longer need its explanations of the natural world or the vagaries of life that are endemic to mankind. To be honest, the overwhelming majority of Christians are no different from anybody else so they are not aspiring to higher levels of morality. To put it succinctly, Christians are only in it for the prize at the end — eternal life. In order to obtain it they put in as little effort as necessary preferring the pleasures of this world over a life of sacrifice and suffering.
Christianity by and large is an inherited not an investigated faith. Most are born and raised in a Christian household if in nothing but word only. The remaining converts enter through a personal crisis experience or act of desperation. None convert after an exhaustive and critical appraisal of Christianity’s rational underpinnings, of which there are none.
No two Christians are alike except when it comes to belief in the resurrection of Jesus. It is the cornerstone of Christianity and the door through which each believer must pass, an irrational one.
Believing Jesus rose from the dead is not a matter of opinion and one beyond proof or disproof. The event is solely contained in the gospel records of the New Testament which may be vigorously compared and analyzed for logistically congruence and consistency. While the concept of the resurrection may transcend reason, the Biblical records do not. If these documents when placed under the glaring and unforgiving light of rational scrutiny cannot withstand its penetrating gaze, credibility is surrendered.
To those who would question or reject even the mere suggestion of subjecting the sacred scriptures to human evaluation, I would ask, “What then is the basis of your faith?” If one cannot demonstrate a reasonable foundation upon which to build their faith, it is nothing more than irrational fantasy. And if it is nothing more than belief in an ancient superstition without a modicum of evidentiary support, why believe it?
I can assert with complete confidence, nobody would naturally become a Christian under ideal circumstances. Which is to say, an educated, healthy, happy and successful adult without any investment in Christianity would ever convert. It is a faith for the vulnerable, gullible and desperate among us, at least at the onset.
I am being intentionally provocative to make my point. Accepting the central premise of Christianity is easy. You merely accept Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected to secure eternal life for those who believe. After this admission, one is free to be as rational as need be. You can earn degrees in theology or be a Christian chemist, doctor, lawyer or businessperson so long as you maintain this fundamental belief.
There are basically two types of Christians: the uninformed (majority) and the misinformed (minority). The world’s population of Christians from all denominations are mostly theologically ignorant. They may have some rudimentary understanding of major doctrines but this seldom extends to the deeper levels. Those possessing formal training are the product of indoctrination. Regarding the Hebrew or Christian Bibles are anything more than religious propaganda makes one a victim not an expert.
Anyone without a faith bias and guided by dispassionate objectivity who takes the time to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge must conclude the Bible is a fallible book written by imperfect men who thought they were apprehending God. And while their sincerity and conviction are beyond question; nevertheless, their results are not.
It would take thousands of pages to present the mountain of evidence to support this conclusion. Few who read this could boast spending countless hours working through the corpus of biblical writings, wrestling with the hundreds of textual problems and satisfactorily resolving each one to substantiate belief in the divine inspiration or inerrancy of the Bible upon which the resurrection rests. No matter to what degree one does or does not hold to the authority of the Bible, at the very least one has to ascribe to it enough credibility on the matter of Jesus’ resurrection.
Why should we trust the Bible is accurate and reliable on this claim?
The popular answer to this question for Christians is to default to predictive prophecy as proof of the Bible’s divine origins. Citing various texts throughout the Hebrew writings are thought to provide indisputable evidence only God could have vouchsafed this information to his human authors. I would contest this defense relies on the theologlical ignorance of non Christians. Each of these texts can be demonstrated to have been taken out of context, manipulated or otherwise misinterpreted to support the writer’s claim. In some cases the gospel writers created information under the influence of God’s superintending spirit allowing them to compose “historical” narratives around selected texts. The nativity stories are examples of employing this literary device to fabricate details about Jesus’s birth to bolster his messianic credentials.
The gospels serve as four independent witnesses to the life of Jesus. Perhaps nothing is more discrediting to the integrity of the Bible than the many contradictions, incongruences, incompatibilities and implausibilities found throughout.
So why do so many continue to believe in documents fraught with errors? Because you don’t see that for which you are not looking or expect to see.
I would define Christianity as resting on four pillars of irrationality: Experientialism, emotionalism, esotericism and escapism. A daily experience with God which brings peace, comfort, joy and hope along with a dynamic encounter through his living Word resulting in the refusal to entertain challenges to their cherished faith. What more proof do they need?
Christianity’s greatest defender by far is ignorance. Knowledge is truths best friend and faiths worst foe. To ask a Christian to embark on a long and arduous rational investigation into the foundation of their faith is folly. They have little to gain and everything to lose. Intellectual honesty is a steep price to pay for one’s eternal soul.