Are the New Testament Gospels accurate historical accounts of the life of Jesus, or are they accounts written much later that merely reflect the beliefs and legends of another time and place? Lydia McGrew attempts to answer this question by reviving a long-neglected argument concerning various “undesigned coincidences” that can be seen when comparing the Gospels with each other. On this program, producer Shane Rosenthal talks with Lydia about this unique approach which she has written about in her book, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts.
“It’s interesting to see just how hard it would actually be to do this as a hoax, forging or making up a fictional gospel. A forger has to draw attention to what he’s doing, or else it’s of no value to him. So it’s not the kind of thing that you would get with what Bart Ehrman will say, ‘Oh, this was just like a game of telephone,’ people telling tales to one another. You would definitely not find these kinds of undesigned coincidences in that kind of non-deliberate way. That’s extremely implausible. Instead, it looks like it just really is true.”Lydia McGrew
TERM TO LEARN
“The Objectivity of Faith”
To believe in something without first seriously reflecting on it or looking into it is not an act of faith, it is an act of foolishness. It is not, as some have held, a virtue to believe something without evidence or reason. The person who says, “You just have to have faith,” is really just proclaiming he has no idea what faith is. The whole point of Christianity is not that we have faith—that is no different from any other religion or worldview. If just having faith were the goal, all would be saved since everyone believes something. No, faith itself is not the object. In fact, what differentiates religions is the object of each faith. The content of faith ultimately is what matters. And the content of a faith is what must be investigated and then embraced or rejected.
Paul argued based on facts that could be investigated by anyone who was interested. He recognized that if Christianity was true, it must be rooted in facts. Paul saw the contact point in the historical, physical, temporal aspects of the life of Jesus. Jesus was a real person who did and said certain things in certain places at certain times. Witnesses to Jesus’ life and teaching could be found and questioned regarding these things.
Jesus’ reality—His historicity—is the foundation of Christianity. Without it, there is no Christianity. Paul was so sure of this foundation that he went so far as to point out the most vulnerable claim of the Christian faith [in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19].
If Jesus did not live, do, and say the things claimed by the apostles, then Christianity is false. If there is a better explanation for the resurrection, then Christians are simply wasting their time.
By pointing out this vulnerability, Paul was really pointing out the strength of Christianity. So convinced was he of the historicity and verifiability of the resurrection, the event that confirmed the claims of Jesus, that he pointed out how to prove it false—almost as a challenge. Christian claims can be investigated and tested. This challenge has no parallel in other religions. No other sacred text shows how to destroy its own claims.
The church fathers showed they understood the importance of Jesus’ historicity when they crafted the Nicene Creed, the universally accepted creed of the church. The creed says, “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.” Why mention Pontius Pilate? What doctrine is based on him? The answer is: none; there is no doctrine based on Pilate. He is mentioned to remind us that these were real events happening to a real person at a particular point in history.
(Doug Powell, Holman Quick Source Guide to Christian Apologetics, pp. 11, 16, 18)