Why I appreciate a good attack on Jesus

Earlier this month Sean the Blognaught published a book review on “Jesus Lied – He Was Only Human” by C J Werleman. Surprising as this may sound, I actually found it refreshing.

Why? Because the anti-Christian challenge was focussed on Christ for once! Instead of focussing on secondary figures, like the Paul and the prophets, or secondary issues, like the days of creation and the laws of Moses, which is what I’ve come to expect from New Atheist authors, this guy gets that Christ is central to Christianity.

That’s so cool! I get so exasperated by the misdirected challenges that castigate Christians for believing x, when I don’t believe x, or for behaving like y, when I don’t behave like y, or for belonging to z, when I don’t belong to z. Even more so when my Christianity is challenged on the basis of the attacks not fitting me! It’s so intellectually hypocritical, particularly for people who claim to pride evidence-based reasoning above all else. So I welcome an Atheist who has the guts to go for the hard core essentials for once.

And as a consequence I find myself rather bemused by Sean’s comment that this guy is too snarky. Mate, hey, they’re all snarky. Could it be you’re only noticing it now because of the target? I find it intriguing that it makes you uncomfortable.

13 thoughts on “Why I appreciate a good attack on Jesus

  1. It’s also worth noting that Christ can SUSTAIN such intellectual criticism. So for a Christian who knows his or her stuff, there should be nothing to fear from the Snarks. 🙂


  2. Matt, thanks for commenting. I think you are a rare breed mate, in terms of people not just Christians :).
    It doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I am just not sure that some of the emphasis generated by snark will aid the aim of the book. People rarely change their mind when you point out that they are wrong, or that your opinion is a bit silly. Or when you really stick the boot in on their sacred cows.
    Hey you can’t call Bart Erhman snarky mate 😛


  3. Okay, got to admit I haven’t read Erhman. I’ll have to put him on my watch-out-for list.
    And you’re right that paradigm shifts don’t come easy. But even where worldview changes, either way, are not even remotely forseable, I still think dialogue is worthwhile when substantiative issues are in focus. For Christianity there is nothing more substantiative than Christ. So, where Atheist authors doggedly dodge him for softer targets, I think, “Oh, come on!” It’s equivalent to a Christian avoiding talking about Darwin or Freud. But when they critique him squarely, I think, “Ok, we have a real issue of substance here. Let’s talk about this.”


  4. Sean, I’d like to ask you: what do you think comprise the present genres in Atheist writing, and what would you recommend?
    I was a great fan of the Flew and Ayer school of almost aristocratic, philosophical Atheism (which of course they equated with Agnosticism); from which the current very populist writing is a long way down. A long way even from, say, Russell. (Though let me say, it is through Christianity and especially evangelicalism being populist to a fault that I feel well trained to recognize the quality.)
    Hitchen’s compendium ‘The Portable Atheist’ was the best I’ve recently seen, though only because it epitomized points of excellence over a longer period. Susan Jacoby’s narrative history of American free-thought ‘FreeThinkers’ was splendid. And though it isn’t his main gig by any means, Stephen Fry’s aesthetically sensible humanism in YouTube soundbytes is probably the most attractive face and eloquent voice for the current movement.
    But the big sellers — at least those I’ve spent time with after the early mistake of buying The Atheist Universe on account of it’s popularity — have been consistently underwhelming. That’s my reaction, not my critique, obviously. 🙂
    So what IS the good stuff? And where do you get your recommendations?


  5. Ay, Kalessin, invoking again the Atheists’ Burden. The atheists must be better at theology than the religions they examine or they have little value.
    What specifically are you looking or when you say “The Good Stuff?”


  6. Ay Mike;
    Maybe read my post again; I’m interested in keeping up on atheist writing, but I’ve bought some junk based on Amazon ratings; so when a friend-of-a-friend and atheist blogger appears on here, the opportunity arises to ask what he thinks is the good stuff.
    I was trying not to skew the answer with my own interests, but since he hasn’t replied anyway, here’s the kind of qns I have when I Think what to spend time on: Do I get Richard Carrier or Paul Kurtz on consciously Atheist ethics? Does Dennett offer anything new on free-will? Would Haldane and Smart’s debate or Michael Martin’s Cambridge Companion be the best academic-level overview? These kind of questions.
    You might prefer to interpret this as a devious rhetorical gambit.


  7. Perhaps it is not that Jesus lied, but that Christianity altogether was based on lies about Jesus.
    Which is to say that Paul and the church fathers who fabricated the Bible to consolidate their power, turned the spirit-breathing Spiritual Way of Life taught and demonstrated by Jesus into a power and control seeking religion about Jesus.
    The rest of course was and is the blood-soaked history of Christian-ISM


  8. Hi John —
    To be honest, I find this idea to be mostly wishful thinking.
    > Paul … turned the spirit-breathing Spiritual
    > Way of Life taught and demonstrated by Jesus
    > into a power and control seeking religion about
    > Jesus.
    In his letters, Paul consistently declines to exalt himself, start his own faction, boast in his advantages, or exercise authoritarian power in his letters, because of the model he sees in Jesus. cf. Phil 1, 2, 3, 4; 1 Cor 1, 9; 2 Cor 12, Gal 2. That’s very different to the picture that you paint of him.
    As to whether others did, I don’t think there’s much doubt of it after 312 CE. But the preeminence of the Roman church over other centres (Antioch, Carthage, Alexandria) was a development of the third century, as it came to mediate in disputes. There was no sole, authoritative chain of command until Constantine, and the main concerns between 250 and 310 were the side-effects of state persecution upon the communities (esp. the reception of people who handed over their Christian texts to be burned by the state). To get a feel for the third century, see e.g.
    > … the church fathers who fabricated the
    > Bible to consolidate their power…
    Could you perhaps identify some who did this? Before 200 CE, say, since the text was certainly in general usage by then.
    The earliest existing manuscript of Paul’s letters (P46) dates to about 200 CE. About the same time writers like Tertullian (fl. 190-210) and Irenaeus (d. 202) were quoting the NT docs extensively in their own works, and Tatian had thirty years earlier produced a harmony of the four gospels (Diatessaron).
    So I think you’re conflating an early, organizationally fluid period, with a period when strong central government existed. We have the texts all of the Mediterranean (e.g. Antioch and Carthage) by 200 CE, long before a single centralized authority arrived. If you read about Cyprian (above) I don’t think you’d want to argue that churches after 250 CE would have quietly accepted changes in their texts. And the means to even theoretically effect such changes did not exist until after Constantine in 312.
    > the blood-soaked history of Christian-ISM
    That the church was changed by Rome rather than changing it is sadly granted without reservation. Christendom was far and away our longest-running, most insidiously sensible-seeming heresy, and the one most deserving of that title.


  9. this is truly sad, Jesus was not just human. he took on form of man, but he was born of the virgin Mary and breathed, lived and taught His father’s love…. maybe CJ is confused or has had a bad history with Christianity but you cannot tell me one religion in the world today that gives more to people than Christianity does….
    Author ^ “God Loves you, love Him back. Jesus died for you; accept that. Be human and don’t turn back.”


  10. Joshua, while it’s always a tragedy when people reject the salvation God offers through Jesus, what I appreciate in this author is that he at least understands that Jesus is the important issue. Too often people reject salvation over secondary issues and that’s what I find even sadder.


  11. 1) Virgins don’t give birth , so that is where lies begin.
    Anyone who does their homework knows, that the only proof one can back the VIRGIN BIRTH theme with is found in the OLD TEST.
    Real quick The word used was Alma ( it means young woman with child. The VIRGIN word was tossed in during false translation. If the Jews of the OLD TEST wanted to say VIRGIN they would have used the word Betulah.
    2) EVEN if one tries to assume there was a VIRGIN BIRTH * which there wasn’t…. no person would say BEHOLD or GIVE a sign to an entire generation who all died before such a sign transpired.
    So some person says ” Behold a woman shall bear a child….the people hear this, wait for such a sign, then all die. Then 2,000 years later the sign comes ??? Why give a sign to dead people ?
    Its utter nonsense.
    So if Virgin Birth is simply not true, and it’s NOT, everything following is a lie as well.
    Besides Jesus disqualifies himself if he was a Virgin Birth anyway.
    He was not an anointed KING ( HUMAN )
    He has no bloodlines back to DAVID
    No Messiah
    I could go on and on, but the problem is many Christians are quick to place all their faith in something….yet never really read their Bibles.
    If Jesus dies THUR and was Buried, how do you get ” 3 days and nights” by raising SUN morning….?
    1) Fri day, Fri night
    2) Sat day, Sat night
    5) Sun morning
    Or THUR evening to Fri Evening 1
    Fri evening to Sat Evening 2
    Sun morning
    2.5 does not equal 3 Days and 3 Nights
    Jesus said ” Some of you standing in front of me will not taste death until the son of man returns”.
    They all dies, and Jesus never came back.
    I mean, its like shooting fish in a barrel
    The true God is within one’s self. Go with it.


  12. Joseph
    I am not sure if you’re open to an explaination, but if you are here are a few words I would offer from my reflections upon scripture.
    To begin with your second point first, since it’s the easier one, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the phrase most frequently used in scripture is “on the third day”. For example, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Matthew 16:21)
    This phrasing is quite compatable with their only being two nights between Friday and Sunday. On the first day, Friday, he died and was buried. On the second day, Saturday, he laid in the tomb. On the third day, Sunday, he rose again. To me your problem is introduced largely by your own phrasing which is not, so far as I can see, directly drawn from scripture. If, conversely, you can directly reference a passage that mentions three nights I’d be most interested.
    There is a similar problem with your third point. I cannot find a single translation on line where it says, “Some of you standing in front of me will not taste death until the son of man returns”. What it actually says in Matthew 16:28 is, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Now, I agree this is a difficult passage, but there are a few important points that need to be wrestled with. Firstly, we are dealing here with apocalyptic language, which is best understood as metaphorical descriptions of historical events. With such a mix of metaphor and history we must tread carefully before leaping to conclusions about what the witness was recording. Which leads me to my second point, which is, there are hints throughout scripture that, in some sense, the kingdom has already come: in the death and resurrection of Christ. True, it the kingdom not been consumated, but the kingdom has been inaugurated. This is where Christians speak of the “now / not yet” tension in prophecy. Understanding this tension, I do not this this prophecy is irreconcilable with history.
    To finish with your first point last, while I agree with your interpretation of the Old Testament, I would point out that New Testament writers frequently interpreted the Old Testament from a Christ centred perspective, over and above the exile centered perspective of the prophets who penned them. In so doing they recognized within them a double level of meaning: (1) what the prophecies meant for their immediate hearers and (2) what prophecies mean from the broader perspective we have this side of the resurrection. So, when it comes to the virgin birth, I don’t think they are saying, the virgin birth should have been obvious to everyone, even before Jesus. I think they are saying, since we have witnessed Jesus and heard of his birth, we can now see our scriptures were dropping hints all along. That being said, personally I think this is more of a side issue as only two of the four gospels mention the virgin birth and none of the letters do. The more important issues are the ones all the writers bear witness to: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.


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