Flash! Just in time for the Christmas season, Newsweek reports this
week that the Gospel accounts of Christ’s nativity aren’t “fully
Do tell. Talk about investigative journalism!
Not to be outdone, Time assures us this week that “constantly
evolving scholarship” casts doubt on the Gospel narratives. So
what else is new? Scholarly attempts to diminish Christ through the “higher
criticism” go way back. Thomas Jefferson simply edited all the
miracles out of the New Testament and thought he’d produced Gospels
that were fully factual.
Some more recent scholars, if that’s what they are, aren’t
satisfied with getting rid of Jesus’ deeds; they also want to
eliminate many of his words — the ones that don’t fit in
with the Latest Thinking. It seems he wasn’t the Son of God,
but a progressive-minded Unitarian.
For some reason, Christ’s first disciples, the ones on the scene
at the time, got it all wrong. He didn’t do all the things they
thought they saw him doing, or say all the things they thought they
heard him say. The truth isn’t to be found in the Scriptures,
but in the inferences of modern experts, otherwise known as Constantly
But so certain were those disciples that countless early Christians
bore witness to the truth of the Gospels by suffering the most excruciating
martyrdoms imaginable. They set off a huge chain reaction of martyrdom,
converting even many of their torturers, who were immensely moved and
impressed by this superhuman courage.
Even before the Gospels were written, the martyrs were God’s
media, so to speak, for bringing men to Christ. Long before the printing
press, the radio, movies, and television, the martyrs spread the good
news of the risen Christ.
Some still reject that news, and one strategy of rejection is to water
it down, mixing it with enough skepticism to make the Gospels seem
archaic and alien. Once we reject the miracles because belief in the
miraculous now seems “outdated,” it becomes easy to reject
the message as outdated too. But G.K. Chesterton had the best answer
to this: “Whatever else is true, it is emphatically not true
that the ideas of Jesus of Nazareth were suitable to his time, but
are no longer suitable to our time. Exactly how suitable they were
to his time is perhaps suggested in the end of his story.”
The resistance to his ideas, which got him crucified, has continued
ever since. Jesus remains the most hated as well as the best-loved
man in human history. And as he predicted, his followers have been
hated and persecuted too.
Secularists use the mantra of “separation of church and state” as
an excuse for keeping God’s word out of our public life. We are
allowed to worship privately, but we mustn’t act collectively
as if God has spoken to us. We are to act as agnostics, which means
as virtual atheists.
There are two kinds of agnostics. One says modestly, “I don’t
know.” The other says belligerently, “Nobody can know.” The
first is understandable; nearly everyone has doubts at times. But the
second is asserting a strange dogma.
To say that nobody can know whether God exists is to say something
self-contradictory. God is by definition the omnipotent creator and
ruler of the universe, the source of our being. It’s nonsense
to say that this omnipotent being could exist without being able to
communicate with his own creatures!
He can, he did, and he does. Plain atheism makes more sense than the
arrogant agnostic’s “maybe, but we can never know,” which
reduces God to a divine deaf-mute. He does speak to us, and just as
wonderfully, he listens to us — maybe a bit more keenly than
we listen to him, judging by the state of the world.
The more modest sort of agnostic should ask not whether someone called “God” exists
at all, but whether he has revealed himself to us, and whether we’ve
been paying enough attention to hear him. Are our souls open to him,
or are we tuning him out?
The deepest questions must be answered by each of us personally, not
by scholars or even journalists. Our minds can save us from errors,
but in the end only our hearts can recognize the Truth.
Copyright © 2011 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on December 7, 2004.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
Watch Sobran's last TV appearance on YouTube.
Learn how to get a tape of his last speech
during the FGF Tribute to Joe Sobran in December 2009.
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