I recently received an email from a Christian who is experiencing doubts about his Christian worldview. He asked me to respond to a number of his questions. I will respond to each question in a separate post here on the blog. His identity will remain anonymous unless he chooses to identify himself.
Question: My biggest obstacle to overcome (in that Christianity is not true), right next to the resurrection, would be the “why.” Why would a bunch of people collude together to write a book (strictly speaking to the NT) saying Jesus was God and all of the other things, preach it (if indeed books like Acts are true), and then die (there is not great information outside the NT on the disciples so I am not entirely sure how they ended up) for what seems no return on investment. Other religions I can see how one guy, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, and your various cults did it because they really did think it was happening (might explain Mohammad’s visions), were generally mentally unstable, money, power, etc.
To my knowledge, the Bible is unique in that it appears multiple people pitched in to write it. I am a person of candor so I generally just tell it like it is for the sake of truth. It is difficult for me to conceptualize making up a whole story, let alone getting others to do it as well, and then selling it as truth just for kicks – and they even included some pretty serious consequences if you do not believe the narrative. I suppose the synopsis here would be, how likely is it that we have the Bible we have today from 27 different authors who were all doing it as a scam. If it is a scam, that took a lot of planning and the level deceit is almost unmatched.
Gary: Many Christians look at the truth claims of Christianity in very black and white terms: Either the authors of the Bible were honest people who told the truth, or, the authors of the Bible were dishonest people who colluded to propagate a lie. But what about a third possibility:
The authors of the Bible were honest, sincere people who were mistaken.
I believe that this is the most likely scenario. There are many instances in history of very sincere but very superstitious people sincerely believing that a supernatural event has occurred. And many times evidence eventually comes out proving that the alleged supernatural event was really a very natural phenomenon. We see this with UFO sightings. The object that civilian observers were certain was a Martian mothership turns out to be a military jet or a rocket of some type.
Remember that the majority of scholars do not believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses. Scholars state that all we know for certain regarding the Resurrection Story is that very soon after the death of Jesus, some of his followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead and that he had appeared to them.
Thousands upon thousands of people throughout history have claimed to have received an appearance from a dead loved one or friend in which the dead person speaks to them. Do we believe these claims? No. So why should we believe the same claim about Jesus?
Probability tells us that the Resurrection Story is a tall tale, based upon a misperception of reality, told and retold by very sincere people who believed with all their hearts that it was true.