I went to church this week.
Well, not really church. An Alpha course. Week 2 to be precise, at Nicky Gumbel’s church, the home of Alpha, “HTB”. Which stands for… something… HTB-y…
I’m staying in London with Australian friends I knew from Sydney and they invited me along on my second night here. One of my few regrets from my years as a Christian is that I was so centric – never reading or listening to or entertaining ideas from people that contradicted my own. Now that I’m at the other end of the spectrum, I’d hate to commit the same mistake. Plus, I’ll admit I was curious as to what it would be like to be back in that environment after a 2 year hiatus. So I met my friend for a glass (or two) of red wine after work and trotted along.
There’s a whole other blog in the emotions of the experience but I just want to outline what I mentally thought of the ideas presented, in a simple non-comprehensive, non-referenced way, just like Alpha does. Even though Alpha is designed for people to come and ask questions and assist as a base for a search for meaning, most people probably attend it without doing any follow up on what was said. I actually taught the Alpha Course twice when I was a Christian and never did any further reading on the claims. Atheist websites are always so judgemental and rude about it, so I thought I’d put some ‘alternative thoughts’ down for anyone wanting to get a bigger picture.
First of all, one of the best sentences all evening was something Nicky said after confirming Jesus did actually claim to be the Son of God. He said, “How do you test a claim like that? I would suggest you look at evidence.”
Which is a great idea. Because there’s lots of people who’ve claimed to be god or a demi-god or from god or showing the way to god or related to god… there’s a vein of similarity amongst all of them but one glance will tell you they can’t all be 100% right. So assuming that one of them is correct, how could we tell? Nicky’s suggesting evidence so let’s go with that for now…
Evidence Number One
The bible should be believed as an historical account
Comparative textual evidence, aka: the number of writings about an event and the age of the oldest copy of those writings, is given by Alpha as reason to believe in the accuracy of the New Testament. Here’s some reasons the majority of people do not believe it is a reliable historical account:
There are entire books written on whether the bible can be taken at face value or not and, believe me, it’s a dry, black-hole discussion. Regardless of how far evidence for or against Jesus as the Son of God is down the ‘reliability’ ladder, at the end of the day, it’s on the ladder. There is room for doubt about whether the events took place as described and whether Jesus did actually say what he said.
I use to wonder “Well, if it didn’t actually happen like that, why would Christianity have started at all?” Christianity isn’t the only religion to have started and flourished. Religions thrive for all sorts of reasons; if the fact that Christianity exists at all is evidence of its truth, the same will have to be applied to Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. To choose Christianity over all the others, there’d need to be something sort of special about it. Which brings us to the next point…