Tuesday's post was the second in the "Hello, Out There" series. As the comments tapered off, one came in which I think worthy of a more full (— Talbot grads don't say "f*ller"; to us, it is "the f-word") reply. To wit:
First, I'm glad you asked.
Second, you're absolutely right. I don't write everything in every post. It's actually a temptation I have to fight — the temptation to try to say everything in every sermon, and write everything in every post. For me it takes discipline to try to pick one thing and focus on it alone. That's why this is a series. Lord willing, other things at other times.
Third, I have written at a bit more length about why I believe what I believe about Jesus and the Bible in an essay called Why I Am (Still) a Christian. Check it out.
Fourth, I wonder what study you've done on this subject. Taking you at your word, it seems to me that you've given up an awful lot for no reason at all. Let's take this apart a bit.
"Nothing"? You say, "nothing was even really written about [Jesus] for some 40 or 50 years after his death (a date I base on the current earliest known scrap of New Testament writing)."
This is simply a naked assertion. Not only does it have no supportive evidence, but it is contrary to a huge pile of evidence. The New Testament Epistles write about Jesus, and they were written as early as twenty years after Jesus' resurrection. Luke was almost certainly written before the mid-sixties (thus within 30-35 years of that event), and he refers to earlier written accounts (Luke 1:1-4). Thus, your premise is incorrect.
Nihilism? But let's put that aside for a moment. Have you thought this through at all? Your assumption is, "We cannot know anything about something documented 40-50 years after the event." Do you realize that no remotely credible historian alive would agree with you? Do you realize that this would lead to total historical nihilism?
Put it another way. When you read David McCullough on, say, John Adams or George Washington, or 1776, do you reject the whole as bosh because it is written more than two centuries after the events? Or when you read of the Pharaohs, or the Battle of Carchemish, do you shrug and say "Whatever" because everything is written millennia after the occurrences? Not likely.
Do you realize that most historians would (metaphorically, I trust) kill to have the sorts of resources, the staggering wealth of early manuscript evidence, that the NT historian has about the life of Jesus?
Plus (just in passing), you speak as if these documents came from a vacuum, and dropped into a vacuum. Christianity took hold when vast throngs of eyewitnesses still lived. It gripped people with its truth to the extent that they were willing to die, and often did die, for the proposition that its central tenets were historical.
How much is enough? Again, taking you at your word that this is the reason you class Jesus as a liar: how early would the documents have to be for you to believe? You say 40-50 years is too much of a gap. How about 39 years? But you're already there; Mark may well have been written within a couple of decades of the resurrection; Luke's sources certainly were written within three. 35 years? Already there. 30? Probably already there, in my judgment. What is your cut-off for historical certainty, how did you arrive at it, and on what basis?
To take that slightly differently, given that this was your stated reason for not being a Christian, and given that I've shown you that you were incorrect, will you believe in Jesus now? (BTW, a lot more documentation and reasoning is given in a book I reviewed last year.)
You see, I'll just be very candid with you. In a few decades of talking to people who say they've left Christ, I have found a common factor. The reason they give is never the real reason. They say "error in the Bible, Christians are mean, I hate church, God didn't obey one of my prayer-orders," or a dozen other things. And I'm sure those things feel, emotionally, very real to them.
But they're always red herrings. The real reason always comes from the world, the flesh, and/or the devil. Always it's really that they wanted to think, be, or do something they knew was wrong, and they'd feel a lot better about it if there were no living God such as Jesus reveals. They wanted to have sex with someone (or something) they knew they shouldn't, they wanted to take or become or do something they knew they shouldn't, and the only thing standing in the way was God. So they just attempt intellectual deicide, come up with an alibi, and try to move on.
Dead giveaway #1. The first dead giveaway is that the alibi almost invariably evaporates under the most basic examination.
I'm not saying that's you. I'm just saying that, so far, the stats in my experience are pretty high.
Dead giveaway #2. The second dead giveaway is that Real Central Unanswerable Challenge A, when it is knocked over, is immediately replaced by Real Central Unanswerable Challenge B ("Oh yeah? Well... well... where did Cain get his wife? Huh? Huh?") And Real Central Unanswerable Challenge B, demolished, is immediately replaced by Real Central Unanswerable Challenge C, and then D, and then E, and on and on.
Because the presenting issue is never the real issue.
As different as you and I may be, we share the same real issue; and that is something that I did talk about in the previous post. Our issue is that our desires are contrary to the will and nature of God. He stands between us and what we want, because what we want is to "be as God"; we want "thy will be done" to be addressed to us. So whatever we tell ourselves and others, we really don't want such a God as Jesus reveals. And that is why we characteristically suppress the truth that God offers us (Romans 1:18).
But that is why Jesus came. He came as the first man ever not to rebel, the first man ever perfectly to fulfill His Father's law in thought, word and deed. He fulfilled an intricate labyrinth of prophecy, lived a life marked off by the touch of God from first to last. He died under God's wrath, as a substitute, bearing the guilt of innumerable rebels, so that He might reconcile them to God.
The reason His death was of such infinite value is that He was God incarnate, as the Old Testament had said He would be (cf. Isaiah 7:14; 9:6). God the Son lived a perfect life empowered by God the Holy Spirit, made the perfect sacrifice to appease God's wrath; and God the Father signaled His acceptance of that sacrifice by raising Christ bodily from the dead.
So the great good news, Shyguy, is that whatever particular issues you may feel you have, your real issues and mine are dealt with in Christ. Agree with God about His Son, rest your faith on Him as your Lord and your Savior.
Now there's a rock you can build on.
(For more about how and why to know God, read here.)