Friday, March 02, 2012

Y I AM CATHOLIC - PART 4: The evidence for Christ

Before we proceed...a quick review. First, our objective here is to provide a path to Catholicism which begins with nothing. In other words, belief in God is not assumed and the authority of traditional Christian sources - such as Scripture and the writings of the early Church Fathers - are not immediately relied upon.




Such an approach is made increasingly necessary today as a careless atheism and a general apathy towards religious truth progressively dominates our culture. And whereas in the past we might have engaged fallen away family members over the "Sunday obligation", we are more likely today to find ourselves in debates over the very existence of God.


Traditional apologetics begins with “proofs” - proofs of God through evidence from nature, motion, cause and effect, and other matters requiring reason. 

However, we begin our inquiry with something that requires no reason: death. Death is the one constant, the one common denominator for us all. Death is a great place to begin because it is the one thing upon which we cannot disagree: we will die.

In Part 1 of this series we begin with death and explored the 50/50 possibility of the afterlife. In Part 2, we determined that the Christian proposition of the afterlife demands serious examination due to the fact that it presents us with the most horrific of post-death possibilities: eternal damnation. In Part 3 we examined the undeniable evidence for the existence of the early Christian church through the accounts of their Roman oppressors.

Here, in Part 4, the Roman accounts will once again assist us as we examine the historical existence of Jesus Christ.

As already mentioned, there is little extra-biblical documentation for the historical existence of Jesus. And of what there is, much has largely been discredited as the fabrication of later Christian copyists. So, for the skeptic, the atheist, how best to prove Jesus?

The best record is not found in ink, but blood, martyrs’ blood, and lots of it. For nearly three centuries thousands voluntarily accepted the most unimaginable tortures rather than change their story, which was: 

  1. Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, 
  2. He was born of the Virgin Mary, 
  3. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died and was buried, and 
  4. On the third day he rose from the dead and has ascended into Heaven
There are three things to consider in the matter of the Christian persecution at the hands of Rome: 

  1. its brutality,  
  2. its length, and 
  3. its uniqueness
Brutality: The Romans had made a science of torture. They had perfected it to the point of art and placed it at the service of entertainment and spectacle. Few societies have ever devised crueler ways to kill a man - crucifixion being the ultimate installment in humanity’s excursion into inhumanity.

Length: The Roman persecution stretched through six full generations. Consider that the Christians were subjected to Roman brutalities for a period longer than the United States has been a nation. Using Nero (64 AD) as a starting point and the Edict of Milan (313 AD) as the end, Christians suffered unimaginable cruelties for 249 years. 

Uniqueness: Martyrdom is not unique to the early Christians, but their willingness to be killed in the most cruel ways is. Compare this to the "martyrdom" of Islam, where one dies (often quickly) while killing others. Compare also the “martyrdom” of the Jonestown, Guyana cult where 800 people committed suicide. Imagine, instead of swallowing cyanide, those people lining up to be boiled in oil, gnawed by wild beasts, grilled on fire hot racks, or left to die over days nailed to a cross... probably not a lot of volunteers in that scenario.

No, the martyrdom of the early Christians is unique not just because of their willingness to suffer the most unimaginable torments, but because many of them could have avoided it altogether by making some nominal gesture to a Roman deity

There is simply nothing like the persecution of the early Christians in history, and it forces us to examine what and who they died for.

Go here for Part 5.





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