If Christ truly rose from the dead, would I follow him?
Several years ago, I began receiving private messages on our now-defunct forum from a xian with the handle “Rocky”. He sent me some generic questions that were not directly preachy and I answered in ways that briefly made my position clear without directly challenging his faith. Until one day he asked a rather more pointed question, to which I drafted a detailed answer:
Rocky, sorry this has been so long in coming. You asked a question which I know touches on a subject near and dear to your heart. So far I have tried to stay away from direct challenges to your faith. But to give you an honest answer to this question, I must directly address just those issues. So if you have had a bad day, or are feeling particularly touchy just now, I recommend you put this answer aside and read it later.
Take a deep breath, here we go.
You asked: “I have a question for you, if you found out tomorrow that Christ truly rose from the dead would you submit to and follow Him? I am really interested in your answer.”
The short answer, which may surprise you, is NO.
But you should have a more detailed answer. Sorry, but this is going to be long. I’m not concerned whether you agree with me, but I am hoping that you can understand my reasoning, and it may help you understand and relate to other non-believers better.
First, your very question makes assumptions on it’s own. You use the word “Christ” instead of “Jesus”. That word has a lot of mythology and expectations attached to it, it’s a title rather than a name. It a Greek word that means “the anointed one” and Christians usually use the word to mean the Jewish messiah, with a specific claim that Jesus was that messiah. (And the idea of a “messiah” has a whole host of assumptions that it rests on, as well.)
There are a lot of things that I would need to believe in to before I could accept the premise of your question, the miraculous rising from the dead. (Someone once asked my oldest daughter “Do you believe a person can come back from the dead?” and she answered, “Well, if you have a defibrillator…”)
Here’s some of what I’d have to be ready to accept:
- A supernatural being (or beings) exists or has existed. (from here on, I’m going to use the singular “being” but please realize that it can mean “beings” where appropriate.)
- This being created the universe.
- This being still exists.
- This being is capable of interacting with the inhabitants of the natural world.
- This being is interested in interacting with the inhabitants of natural world.
- This being is all-powerful, all-knowing, and benevolent.
- This being has a particular interest in the humans on our small planet, and created the whole of the vast cosmos entirely for our benefit.
- This being is interested in what you do, what you think, what you eat, what you wear, who you sleep with, whether you believe, and for some reason desires your submission and worship.
- This being took a special interest in one particular small mideastern tribe of bronze-age goat herders, and became their personal war totem, helping them to kill many thousands of innocent people.
- This being also gave them a list of very picky laws that he wanted followed, and was quick to punish them for any small transgression of those rules.
- In the bronze age this being was extremely interested in blood sacrifices, worked many obvious miracles, and interacted visibly with humans.
- This being gave some of his chosen humans the power of prophecy, and they correctly predicted the coming of a messiah.
- During the Roman Era that same being miraculously became a human, and continued to work miracles, but now delivered an entirely different message than the legalistic rules delivered before.
- That human was actually the promised messiah, was executed, and rose from the dead. Correct belief in this event is what divides humans into two groups: those who will be eternally rewarded and those who will be eternally punished.
- And this being chooses to communicate with humanity by means of a book, which we do not have an original copy of, but which is nevertheless perfect in every word.
Are you following me so far? I’d have to be willing to accept all of those above statements to be able to accept your premise “if you found out tomorrow that Christ truly rose from the dead…” And I don’t accept any of them.
However, your question began “If…” So let’s try the hypothetical “If I actually thought all of the above were true, if I thought that everything that was said and done in the bible actually happened, would I submit and bow down?”
Again my answer has to be “NO”.
Surprised again? Your Biblegod HAS A LOT OF EXPLAINING TO DO!
(I’m going to use the word Biblegod to differentiate the god your church preaches about from all the other ideas out there about any other god or gods, or mysterious forces, or whatever.)
The only thing that really distinguishes us from the other animals is our higher reasoning ability. Why should we have to set this aside in order to please Biblegod? Why should we have to just “believe” instead of thinking things out?
Why should our eternal salvation depend on our understanding of a 2000 year old book when nobody can agree on what that book even means? How many different denominations are out there, each claiming to have the Real Truth? None of them can agree with any other about what the correct interpretation is, or which translation to use. If Biblegod couldn’t even make this clear, how are lowly humans supposed to work this out?
If Jesus were bringing humanity the most important message they would ever receive, why didn’t he write it down himself? (Muhammad wrote his own book and so did Joseph Smith!) Why depend on second, third and fourth-hand accounts written by people who hadn’t even met him? Since they wrote in Greek, but Jesus spoke Aramaic, we don’t have ANY of his original words, anyway. And why don’t we have the original manuscripts? We have hundreds of various manuscripts, all copies of copies of copies, none of which match each other. You’d think Biblegod could have made sure that we had an actual authoritative copy of his perfect book. But we don’t.
Jesus also could have included something in his message that mankind could not possibly have known at the time. That would be a better evidence of divinity than “casting out demons”. He could have told us about germs, or about electricity. He could have said:
“Write this down: I say unto you that the attraction between objects decreases in proportion to the distance between them multiplied unto itself. Yes, I know you don’t understand it yet, just write it down.”
That kind of thing would have made it really clear to us in our time that he was something other than just one more cult leader. As it is, he didn’t say anything that we now can confirm, but that a normal human of his time could not have known.
Looking at the idea of “original sin,” if Adam didn’t know the difference between good and evil, then he could not have known it was “wrong” to eat the apple until it was too late! How is this just?
And how is it just for Biblegod to punish all ALL of somebody’s descendants, when they had nothing to do with the original infraction?
If your Biblegod knows everything, then when a baby is born, he already knows whether that person will eventually be saved or spend eternity in hell. Why would a loving god allow billions of people to be born knowing that this will be their fate?
If becoming a Christian is supposed to make people “better” then why don’t we see that? Christian rates of incarceration, divorce, drug use, alcoholism, etc. are as high as for everybody else. For any measure of “morality” Christians do not come out ahead. They behave just as badly as everybody else.
Why do natural disasters hit True Believers just as hard as they do everybody else? Biblegod will help his faithful find a parking space at the mall, but won’t divert a tornado around a church, or send hurricanes back out to sea?
And – there are promises in the bible that Biblegod does not keep. Your book promises that prayers will be answered, that believers will be able to move mountains, and work greater miracles than Jesus did, and none of this can be shown to happen. Sure, believers claim that their prayers work, but when put to any actual tests, they are no better than placebos. Your book says “nothing will be impossible for you” but even with all the millions that prayed for the Gulf Oil spill to just go away, it didn’t. It stayed there until humans stopped the leak and started to clean up the mess.
Why is the universe so inhospitable to human life? In our solar system, out of all the planets and moons and other stuff orbiting out there, why is there only one small planet that will support us? And the surface of that one is 2/3 water, and of the remaining land, a lot of it is deserts, mountaintops, glaciers, and other places unsuitable for humans to live on. And the nearest star to the sun is 3 light-years away, and even with our powerful telescopes we still have not yet been able to find another earth-like planet. This “perfectly designed” universe is a very hostile place overall.
And what about evil? I think Epicurus put it well in 300 B.C.:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
– Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
– Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
– Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
– Then why call him God”
So no, if the events in your bible were true, and your Biblegod really did exist, and was just the way your bible says he is, I would not bow down and grovel to him, in hopes that I could spend eternity singing his praises. Your literal biblical god is capricious, murderous, unfair and a bully. If you protest that “god isn’t really like that” then I suggest you read your bible. All of it, not just the parts you focus on in church. Read about Jericho, Jephthah, Gideon, and Dinah. If that’s a true account of the actions of a real god and his “chosen people”, then I want no part of it.
(This message was the end of the conversation with Rocky. He never replied, so I don’t even know if he read it.)
– Ubi Dubium
Cross posted from my personal blog “Questions With Boldness“.