The discussion began HERE and continues HERE.
I first heard the 'Die for a Lie' argument while attending Calvary Chapel in Albuquerque under pastor Skip Heitzig. I do believe it was he who conned me into believing that the argument had any merit. I am embarrassed to admit that I used the ‘Die for a Lie’ argument on my friends at work in the attempt to convince them that there was solid historical evidence to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But that was nearly 20 years ago. I have learned quite a bit since those days.
So, we have been trying to explain to Dr Jones, on his blog, why we do not believe his 200-word Resurrection Witness is a very good argument. In one comment to Dr Jones’ article, after listing a number of problems I had with the argument, I commented:
…Dr Jones, these are complicated issues, the number of sources is vast, and the objections are many, and I think legitimate. I am sorry, but I just don’t think you can win over educated skeptics in 200 words or less.
To which Dr Jones replied:
It never entered my thought process that my 200 word witness would be successful against the educated skeptic. I wrote it for the average man or woman one might encounter at an airport or a soccer game.
An astounding admission, and one that DaGoodS has also blogged about!
So, while folding laundry this evening with my unsuspecting wife RoseMary, and figuring the average woman folding laundry was close enough to an average woman in the airport or soccer game, I decided to use her as a test case. RoseMary, for a little background, is a Roman Catholic from the Philippines, and has no conception of the particular subdiscipline of Christianity called ‘apologetics’.
The conversation that ensued occurred less than an hour ago, and I want to type it down now while it is still fresh in my memory.
While folding some socks, I gave her that look, that certain look which surely warned her that I was about to start talking about religion again.
“Hey RoseMary, can I ask you something? Something that involves religion? I promise, it is not something I want to interrogate you about. I just want to read you something and get your response.”
“OK, I want to read you something from a blogsite, something called a ‘200 word Resurrection WItness’. It is an argument that will try to convince you that there is really evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. So just pretend you are hanging around at the airport or maybe a soccer game and somebody approaches you and says this to you, please tell me what your response will be.”
Then I read, quoting Dr Jones' Resurrection Witness:
In apologetics we provide argument and evidence for the truth of historic Christianity. For example, consider Jesus’ resurrection. We know that Jesus’ disciples walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, and ate with Jesus—they knew who Jesus was. They were with Jesus when he was arrested and they then scattered. The Romans then scourged Jesus, drove spikes through His wrists and His feet to nail him to the cross, and thrust a spear in His side to make sure He was dead. Then they buried Jesus.
But three days later, Jesus’ tomb was found empty and the disciples started testifying that they again walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, and ate with Jesus. And what’s really amazing is that many testified to his resurrection even to their own torture and death. We know extra-Biblically that Nero beheaded the Apostle Paul and we know from the Jewish historian Josephus that the Sanhedrin stoned to death Jesus’ brother James, who had become a leader of the Christian church.
So here’s my question: if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then why would the first disciples die for what they knew was a lie?
RoseMary: OK. I’m not sure how you want me to respond.
Me: Somebody is trying to convince you that Jesus rose from the dead based on reasoned argument. Basically, Jesus’ apostles spent time with Jesus while he was alive, then saw him killed, then saw him alive again, risen from the dead. How do we know? Because they were all willing to die for their witness to the resurrected Jesus. The argument says that we know the Resurrection is true because why else would the disciples die for what they knew to be a lie? How do you respond to that?
RoseMary (utterly confused): I don’t understand. Is the person who wrote this a Christian?
Me: Yes! Here is the thing, we in the United States, in the West in general, live in a post-Faith world. We want evidence for claims. I want evidence! So a whole new discipline arose in Christianity called Apologetics. The people who do this spend their time cooking up arguments, based on what they consider reasonable evidence, for the truth of Christianity. Evidence like you could present in a court case, let’s say. I confess that I was into learning this stuff a lot several years ago, because it was very interesting to me! So this professor…
RoseMary: You mean there is a college professor who does this for a living?
Me: Believe it or not, yeah. I think there are lots of them. Anyway, what this argument is doing, is trying to convince you that Jesus rose from the dead with an evidence based, reasonable argument. Why would the Apostles die as martyrs, if they knew that Jesus did not rise from the dead? There is no good answer to this, so the argument goes, so therefore, Jesus had to have risen from the dead, and Christianity is true! So what is your response to this?
RoseMary (flabbergasted): That is… just crazy. I mean, I believe because I have to believe this to be a Catholic. Where is the Faith? You don’t reason this out. You accept it as a lifestyle, as a matter of Faith. You have to have Faith.
Me: So you don’t think much of the argument?
RoseMary: When you need arguments like that, it means you doubt. You are a Doubting Thomas, and you really don’t have Faith. That’s one reason why Protestants are crazy. How can you be a Christian if you don't have Faith? Faith cannot be measured by any physical thing, you believe because you believe. Whether there is evidence or not. Whether Jesus really did rise from the dead, or did not rise from the dead, you believe it is simple as that. If you probe you are a Doubting Thomas. Why would you want proof?
After letting RoseMary read this to confirm that I got her words and thoughts down accurately, she went on to clarify. I typed these words as she spoke. This next bit from her is verbatim:
RoseMary: I was very confused about what that man was trying to get at, and what that article was all about. That is why I had to ask you a few times to explain to me. Because now I realize that an average Joe or Jane will not just grasp it that easily because we will not understand what he is trying to convey. I think I am educated and smart enough, but I did not get what he was trying to say. And honestly, I don’t care what he says. People like him don’t have to tell me to believe and what not to believe, I think I can take care of that pretty much by myself. And my Faith cannot just be explained by a Professor through his words. I understand my Faith as I see fit. And I think that many people in this world who have Faith believe in what they should believe. Does that make sense? I need Tagalog to say it right. Maybe that is why it is hard to explain. It is very hard in English. Maybe that is why I don’t get him. If an American tells me what to believe, I will not get him, because it does not reach me. Maybe for other Americans, but I don’t get it. I understand the English, I understand the words, I understand the language, but I do not understand the context. I don’t understand where the argument is coming from. The whole idea of arguing about this does not make sense to me. Why does this man spend his time making up arguments like this? Maybe he should go into making pottery. Can I watch my movie now?
So there you have it, the response of an average woman when presented with the 200-word ‘Die for a Lie’ argument. Perhaps, since RoseMary is already a believer in the resurrection, she is not quite the target audience that the argument is designed for. Also, RoseMary, being from the Philippines, may find the whole concept of apologetics difficult because of the cultural divide. But then again, I remember when I shared ‘Die for a Lie’ with my old co-workers. I got pretty much the same response from all those men and women that I witnessed to, and there was no cultural divide then. When I approached the average person with ‘Die for a Lie’, without even first enquiring as to what their current religious beliefs were, I was always met with the same utter confusion, astonishment, and bewilderment.
I learned something from RoseMary this evening. Apologetic arguments like ‘Die for a Lie’ make sense to Dr Clay Jones, Vinny, DaGoodS, and myself because we are in the game. Dr Jones defends these arguments for a living. I question and critique them, almost as a hobby – thinking about such things is fun and instructive, and I am also hopeful to learn a thing or two. But to those who accept their religious beliefs on Faith, and are not in the game, and do not understand the context or apologetic language, these apologetic arguments appear to make absolutely no sense.
Which leads me to question - is there even a point to Christian Apologetics?
I am wondering if I should present this same 200-word argument to a sample of my co-workers, and get their responses. Maybe. I can call it a social-science experiment.
Thank you again to my ever-suffering wife RoseMary for putting her up to another religious experiment. And, as always dear Reader, I would love to read your thoughts.