torsdag, juni 26, 2008

Opening Statement

I remember a particular Superboy comic book in which the Boy of Steel somehow discovers that in the future, he is thought to be as mythical as Peter Pan and Santa Claus. Indignant at this turn of events, he flies at faster than light speed and enters the future to set the record straight. He does a few super-deeds and vindicates himself, then comes home. So Superboy winds up having the last laugh -- or does he?

Of course, it is only fiction! The people in the future were quite right! Superboy is just as mythical as Santa Claus and Peter Pan.

This seems to me a close parallel to the efforts of Christian apologists to vindicate as sober history the story of a supernatural savior who was born of a virgin, healed the sick, raised the dead, changed water into wine, walked on water, rose from the grave and ascended bodily into the sky.

I used to think, when I myself was a Christian apologist, a defender of the evangelical faith, that I had done a pretty respectable job of vindicating that story as history. I brought to bear a variety of arguments I now recognize to be fallacious, such as the supposed closeness of the gospels to the events they record, their ostensible use of eyewitness testimony, etc. Now, in retrospect, I judge that my efforts were about as effective in the end as Superboy's! When all is said and done, he remains a fiction.

One caveat: I intend to set forth, briefly, some reasons for the views I now hold. I do not expect that the mere fact that I was once an evangelical apologist and now see things differently should itself count as evidence that I must be right. That would be the genetic fallacy. It would be just as erroneous to think that John Rankin must be right in having embraced evangelical Christianity since he had once been an agnostic Unitarian and repudiated it for the Christian faith. In both cases, what matters is the reasons for the change of mind, not merely the fact of it.

Having got that straight, let me say that I think there are four senses in which Jesus Christ may be said to be a "fiction."