Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Jesus Christ is the true hero

One criticism made against Christianity by unbelieving scholars in the 20th century was that its central figure, Jesus Christ, too closely resembles other, obviously mythical/fictional, heroes from popular legend.

This criticism is hugely undermined by a) the complete disagreement on exactly *which* legendary hero he is supposed to be modeled upon - disagreement which occurs because b) re-examination of the details never finds as good a fit for any one particular legend's hero as the proposing scholar suggested.

Nevertheless, let's take the idea, and run with it. C S Lewis dealt with a similar criticism in a different way, turning it on its head. Here was the objection he faced. Why are there so many echoes of different pagan legends in the Christian story, unbelieving critics asked? Surely the Bible writers were just borrowing others' riffs when they wrote about Jesus Christ - and therefore their account was not authentic?

That does not follow, replied Lewis. If you're going to seriously consider the question of whether Christianity is true, then in doing so, you must open yourself up to the possibility that God revealed in Christ is the one who is in control of history, guiding it towards its purposes. Those purposes included the spreading of the Christian message throughout all nations. He intends history to bring the progress of the message and rule of Jesus Christ to the nations. In his providential guidance of those nations, what could be wiser than to have allowed stories about legendary redeemers - and legends they are, and the Bible never claims otherwise - that would help to prepare those nations for the coming of the true redeemer? What could be better than to structure creation so that there is, in all cultures, a yearning for a true hero, who, when he was preached, people would recognise as the real thing? Someone who fulfills every legitimate hope and longing that had been gathering through the centuries?

When put this way, the old objection takes on a new light: it's simply one more re-working of unbelief. Classical 20th century liberal scholars simply don't believe that there is an God who controls history. Their presuppositions forbid them to think of other answers than their own: that the Bible writers borrowed other peoples' ideas, instead of speaking through divine inspiration. But it only takes the tiniest amount of imagination to see an alternative: cultures across the world long for a redeemer and tell stories about redeemers who in some ways shadow Jesus Christ (whilst in other ways greatly misunderstanding him), because they have, somehow, an unshakeable feeling that they need one.

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