Here’s why I think the project of “demythologizing” Christianity is misdirected.
Having studied many religions and the many difficulties that many people have with Christianity it strikes me that the deepest objections that most people have to the resurrection as history are not scientific … but philosophical.
What do I mean? Well just this, that I have come across numerous people who are otherwise accepting of magic, divination, ghosts, energy healing and all sorts of “unscientific” phenomena, who nevertheless find the resurrection of Jesus highly implausible. Quite simply, the resurrection is not compatible with the perennial philosophy – it is too exclusive, it is too unique.
While most scholars searching for the “historical Jesus” may think they are engaged in a scientific quest, the vast bulk of their readers are not, they are on a philosophical quest for Jesus who does not conflict with the Perennial Philosophy. Sure there are genuine atheists out there, but they are the minority. Whether Jesus does miracles or not is not the most significant concern for most, what is, is that any aura of exclusivity or uniqueness is neutralized. Jesus is perfectly acceptable to consumer society as one amongst many ascended masters or one amongst many gods or one amongst many gurus. What is NOT acceptable is a challenge to consumer sovereignty, to consumer choice.
If you accept that then it should become clear that Christians who think a “scientized” Jesus will renew Christianity are barking up the wrong tree. Science is a secondary issue here – it is merely a means to an end where any means will do. What people are seeking is a low commitment Jesus, one who demands nothing but does everything to satisfy consumer demands. Catering to such tastes will not lead to a renewal of Christianity. If we acknowledge that Christ is the centre of Christianity, then any marginalization of Christ represents the disintegration of Christianity. It’s like talking of Hinduism without karma or reincarnation, or Buddhism without the four noble truths and eightfold path, the conversation becomes meaningless.
What I think needs to be recognized is that, yes, Christianity is incompatible with any system that requires the marginalization of Christ. If that warrants its rejection by consumer culture, if that means Christianity will become increasingly marginalized in Europe, America and Australia as a consequence, well that’s just a consequence we have to live with. Allow people the option of rejection. Christian integrity is more important than Christian influence.