Saturday, October 24, 2015

Christianity and the Mystery Religions

I recently finished reading a book by Ronald Nash entitled “The Gospel and the Greeks.” The thesis of the book is the examination of the link, if such exists, between Christianity and the mythical religions and philosophies of the ancient world, especially the Greco-Roman world. Granted, the regular Joe down the street is not likely to get into a deep theological discussion with you about how Jesus is supposed to be an amalgamation of the different “gods” who died and were resurrected in antiquity. However, as with the Davinci Code and other such films and books, he may have heard something about this and other myths that many internet “scholars” peddle trying to discredit the historicity of the New Testament.

Where the real danger exists, however, is in the academic world; the same world where your children and grandchildren will move in as they navigate the scholastic maze. And make no mistake, the higher education arena is overwhelmingly filled with unbelievers and those unbelievers are often not content in their unbelief and willing to leave it at that. They are often dedicated to the mission of destroying your children’s faith. As I have mentioned in some of my messages in church, a high percentage of young believers between the ages of 23-30 will abandon the faith they were taught when they were growing up.

And that’s where we have our greatest challenge. Our young people look to us for leadership, but unfortunately, the leadership that they’re getting from those whom they most respect (as they should) is often leading them straight down the path that leads to destruction. In the name of tolerance and inclusion, our society has lost its way. Though tolerance and inclusion are two worthy goals, if you tolerate and include everything then the terms lose their meaning. The toleration and inclusion that our society demands today has extended to issues that, a mere generation ago, were recognized as sinful and undesirable. Christianity being, at its core, an exclusive religion it is constantly attacked by the unbelieving world and if the myths of long ago, no matter how far fetched, serve the purpose of destroying confidence in the Word of God, so much the better.

 The reality is that the myths of the ancient world are, to put it mildly, wildly divergent from the historical account of the New Testament. In many instances they were developed over the course of centuries and, often, were “perfected” long after the time of Jesus and even appropriated parts of that story into their narrative. In addition, the fact that they developed over such a long period of time renders them unreliable; they are called myths for a reason.

Compare that to the story of Jesus: We have places, people, times and events that were set within the framework of a specific time in history. The people that the New Testament mentions and the events it describes can be placed at a specific time and place. You can check the facts the writers describe within a historical framework and know whether they in fact took place. Luke, for example, goes out of his way to describe people and events surrounding Jesus’ life and the life of the church that would be easy to corroborate. If they indeed did not happen, there would be a myriad of writings by historians of the period that would so indicate. On the contrary, what historical writings we have indicate that these events did take place and that the history described by Luke is reliable and true.

The unbelieving world is constantly attempting to find ways to discredit the faith. I mentioned before the Davinci Code. I’m sure you remember the furor that the book and subsequent film created. Guess what? It had its 15 minutes of fame and now it’s nearly forgotten. About eight years ago there was a James Cameron (he of Terminator fame) film that supposedly showed that the ossuary of Jesus was found and that it proved that Jesus had not resurrected. That too was forgotten and it is likely you haven’t even heard of it.

Whereas the historicity—or lack thereof—of the myths of the ancient world makes no difference to anyone’s life, the historical nature of Christianity is an intricate part of the entire faith. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is vain. The unbeliever continues his assault on the Bible and its truths. But he has been unable to discredit it simply because there is no way to discredit the truth. The truth of the gospel stands on its own as the one historical fact that changed and continues to change the world. 

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