Tuesday, 20 April 2010

"The Case for Christ"

A friend loaned me this popular Christian book last week, and in an effort not to have it in my possession for months on end, I've plowed through it in a week and a half. Luckily it was interesting which aids in speeding through a book. But the fast read also gave me some interesting insight into it that I might have missed had I taken a slower pace.

The book is touted as one of the best out there to "prove" the crux of the Christian faith, namely that a carpenter from Galilee who lived on earth 2000 years ago is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Christ. A successful journalist takes a "hard look" at the evidence out there, interviewing 13 different authorities on areas including archeology, history, language, New Testament, and others. The author gives himself some good credibility by providing examples from his career as a crime journalist, covering many controversial murder trials and other sensational court cases.

Being a history-lover, I was interested in reading some of the historical evidences for the New Testament gospels. But to be honest, if I wasn't already a committed Christian, I think this book might have tipped the scales to atheism for me! It was poorly argued and immaturely laid-out. The arguments contradicted each other from one chapter to the next. The author posed a question and accepted a superficial answer as a "knock-out punch," when in fact I could think of at least 5 or 6 more probing questions I would have posed.

Perhaps most unnerving was the forceful conclusions drawn for the reader. In a book where the author claimed to want to research the evidence, examine it all closely, and then draw his own conclusions, I found it bordering on dangerous how manipulative his conclusions were. Many people reading would be guided to simply agree with the author rather than process the information personally. In this way, the book borders on propaganda disguised as impartial - a dangerous combination.

I think, too, that this is a good example of how most people of faith react to their own religions. They are aware of the surface answers to questions. Sitting in a bible study or Sunday School class they would offer up these textbook answers, confident in their knowledge and grasp of key doctrines and principles. But they have neglected to dig deeper and yearn for understanding of the concepts to which they cling. I am not saying that religion is bad, but it does help me understand the Marxist quote "religion is an opium for the masses." Too often people lazily rely on others to hand them a watered-down, easily-digested version of faith and never take the time to immerse themselves in the beautiful ideas beneath.

I already stated I am a committed Christian, and a firm believer in my own faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Gratefully I have been taught both the skill and the importance of critical thinking and I love to spend time pondering on the deeper meaning of scriptural teachings. There is much treasure to be found if one digs deeper into the sand rather than just sifting through the top layer. Certainly there were some interesting ideas presented in "The Case for Christ," once I looked past the formal presentation. I learned much in some areas and was given food for thought in others. But although I think the theories are worthwhile, I would definitely look for a different, less pushy source.

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