Sometimes I am astounded at how vehemently people argue when it comes to religion, but it actually does make sense. Take Christianity for example, which is usually the context for the arguments I see. If it were just a bunch of recommendations like “turn the other cheek” or “love your neighbor as yourself,” it wouldn’t be very controversial. But it also wouldn’t seem to be something of divine origin; you could imagine a clever person whipping up a list of such aphorisms.
Yet these aren’t the central tenets of Christianity. Here’s where we have to decide, is this brilliant or is it foolish? There’s no in between.
I remember when I was an atheist, thinking, “The problem with Christianity isn’t merely the implausibility of the gospel accounts. I can watch Star Wars and suspend disbelief about the Force, etc. No, the real problem with Christianity is that it makes no sense. God is mad at humanity because two people ate an apple, but then He forgives them when they murder His innocent Son. What the heck?!”
And yet, if you seriously entertain the notion that there is a God who loves us, and you can see with your own eyes what a bunch of scoundrels all humans are, then there is a certain beautiful logic to it, that it takes God to swoop in and save us from ourselves, through His own sacrifice. If you tried to build up a theology based on what makes sense in a secular context, it wouldn’t be divine. You would end up just making a Super President to lay on top of earthly rulers.
Bill Hicks (I think?) had a funny bit where he makes fun of Christians for adopting the cross as their symbol. He said something like, “That would be like fans of JFK wearing necklaces with little dangling sniper rifles.”
And yes, that’s funny because it’s true: From a human perspective, the Christian emphasis on the crucifixion is odd. Why call it “Good Friday” when–by our own beliefs–that is the day we humans mistakenly tortured and killed God’s Son.
Yet, if the context of the story is correct, then it makes sense. Isn’t a merciful, brilliant God just the sort of being who would devise a plan of cosmic justice, such that when Satan thought he had tricked humans into committing the ultimate sin, God transforms it into our ticket to paradise? It’s true, that’s never a myth I would have invented, because at first it sounds ridiculous.
But that’s the whole point of this blog post. If there really were a God of the kind described in the Bible, His plan would be like nothing you or I would invent.
Before I close, let me address one possible retort. I can imagine critics saying, “Well jeez, with that kind of argument, you can justify all kinds of nuttiness!”
But hold on a second. It is undeniable that there is something incredibly powerful and compelling about the gospel stories. They have inspired some of the greatest works of art, music, and literature known to man. Then, when you begin to study them with a rational approach, at first they seem to be absurd–but the more you study them, the more sense they make.
I submit that this is exactly what we would expect to observe, if the Bible were the inspired word of God.