The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

I Don’t Like Your Evidence

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A judge in a small rural Italian town has a big weight on his shoulders. During the next several weeks he needs to decide whether or not Jesus Christ is an actual historical figure. Roman Catholic priest Enrico Righi is being sued by his childhood friend, Luigi Cascioli, because Righi had the ignorant audacity to claim that Jesus was, in fact, a historical figure, born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem.[1]

Cascioli, an atheist, is claiming that the church is using its heavy-handed influence to deceive people by “furthering the fable that Christ existed, and says the church has been gaining financially by impersonating as Christ someone by the name of John of Gamala, the son of Judas from Gamala.” Cascioli’s goal of his one-man crusade is to “denounce the abuse that the Catholic Church commits by availing itself of its prestige in order to inculcate—as if being real and historical—facts that are really just inventions.” In other words, he’s looking out for you; he wants you and your family to be free of the shackles of oppressive, dogmatic religious mythology. Zeus doesn’t seem to bother him much though, it’s Jesus that he can’t tolerate having around.

The reality of Jesus Christ is a well-documented historical fact. Aside from the New Testament, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, and Suetonius give Jesus the privilege of being a real historical figure.[2] Jesus is no less real in their writings than Pontius Pilate, Tiberius, or King Herod, yet no one calls their existence into question. The New Testament itself, lest we forget, is not one book written by one author at one time. The NT is made up of 27 separate books, written over the course of 40 years by at least 8 different authors. If textual critics actually treated the Bible like any other piece of literature (like they claim they do), this fact alone should prevent them from dismissing Paul’s writings because of supposed problems in the Gospels. Each author must be given equal footing in the historicity game of the skeptical textual critic. If I can’t use the NT to prove that Jesus was a historical figure, then the skeptic can’t use it to prove that he wasn’t.

Cascioli is trying to play the same evidence shell game that evolutionists play. Historical events are not open to scientific investigation, like it or not. Eyewitnesses are the only reliable source that history has to rely upon. Forensic science does this all the time. They use the available data at the scene of a crime—bullet casings, holes in the wall, blood, etc.—and try to fit this into the story told by the witness or witnesses. Do the facts fit the story? Evolutionists like to tell stories too, like this one for example:

The naturalist’s epic narrative of how we got to be begins, of course, with the Big Bang and the condensation and evolution of the universe itself. … [T]he story picks up again with two more processes, natural biogenesis and evolution through natural selection, which played out here on earth in four key stages. First, molecules capable of reproduction arose by a rare but not too improbable congruence of events. Second, natural selection inevitably acted on these molecules to produce the evolution of life. Third, this process of evolution, after much meandering, eventually hit upon a supreme adaptation: the production of a conscious mind. And fourth, the activity of conscious minds created an entirely new playing field for natural selection: memetic rather than genetic evolution, giving rise to an evolving culture, eventually producing philosophy, science, and technology. This is our story, our Book of Genesis.[3]

The fact that this story is completely outside any forensic analysis should not be missed. The evolutionist has no history book that documents this story, no eyewitness, no murder weapon, no Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick. Nothing. Nada. And we’re expected to believe this story as factual? A “process of meandering” eventually produces consciousness? Is this the best they have? The answer is, of course it’s all they have. It is not usually put so bluntly as above, but that is their answer. Why? Because they don’t like our story.

The Christian is the one prone to believe fairy stories and fantastical tales of mythical saviors, remember? If the Bible is really nothing more than fables and bedtime stories for children, then the only other option is to believe Richard Carrier’s story above. “T.S. Eliot argued that … either everything in man can be traced as a development from below or something must come from above. He maintained, therefore, that the only alternative to naturalism is supernaturalism.”[4] The naturalist will always back down from the hand that his naturalism deals him. A purely mechanistic, “meandering” natural world cannot account for such things as good and lovely and altruism and philosophy and science. These things must “come from above,” but the naturalist doesn’t want to let that cat out of the bag.

Human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a skeptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, “Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?” The young skeptic says, “I have a right to think for myself.” But the old skeptic, the complete skeptic, says, “I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.”[5]

Which brings us back to the Italian atheist, Luigi Cascioli. He “declares he is not intent on having the matter be decided by a court of law, saying, ‘I wrote to [Righi] an open letter, stating that I would withdraw the lawsuit if he were capable of supplying proof, just one proof, of the historical existence of Jesus.’” But earlier in the article Righi provides it. “Among his examples are the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, thought by scholars to be the most important non-Christian source on the issue. One of his passages of Jewish Antiquities, a work completed in A.D. 93, mentions the execution in A.D. 62 of ‘the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, James by name.’”[6] You see, it’s not the evidence that makes the case, it’s the case that makes the evidence. Cascioli already has his mind made up; evidence counter to his belief will simply be rejected out of hand. Supernatural intervention is not an option for him. Nothing can “come from above” in Cascioli’s mind, so Jesus must be a myth. He is a figment of naturalistic minds that have somehow evolved the ability to lie to themselves in order to believe in the supernatural. The “meandering process” has turned against itself.

Good thing for us that such astute minds such as Carrier and Cascioli have evolved to bring balance back to the system and tell the story the way it was meant to be told. But then again, in a naturalistic world, “good” and “meant to be” have no meaning. Everything that happens was “meant to be.” Kind of makes you wonder why they spend so much time trying to change other people’s minds, doesn’t it?

Endnotes:

[1] Anicole Winfield (AP), “Christ’s existence challenged,” Toronto Star (January 21, 2006).
[2] Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament Reliable? (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2003 [1986]), 22–34.
[3] Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness Without God (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005), 166.
[4] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 174.
[5] G.K. Chesterton, Heretics/Orthodoxy (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2000 [1905, 1908]), 194.
[6] Joe Kovacs, “Jesus Christ’s existence going on trial this week,” WorldNetDaily (January 22, 2006). Online: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=48450

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