The story of Jesus to which billions of people cling is strange one indeed. Not so much strange because of its drama or its miracles. No, what’s strange is that it purports to be a story of God or, at least, a story from God. That the story is to be from God is strange to me because of a seriously flaw that is central to it: it, or at least its key element, is disprovable.
With one single occurrence, a lone wandering shepherd or a massive archaeological excavation, Christian faith could be nearly entirely undermined. It would not just be shaken, as it may be upon discovery of new and contradictory sacred texts, for instance. No, the discovery of the clearly and accurately marked contents of a robbed grave would turn Christianity on its head. If the physical remains of Jesus were discovered, the story of his bodily resurrection would be demonstrated quite clearly to be untrue. And because such bodily resurrection is so central to the idea that a man who was killed was not merely a messiah, but actually God, the whole of Christian practice would need to be reconsidered.
It is certainly not likely that a set of first century remains clearly identifiable as the historical Jesus will ever be found. But the point is that it is possible. And as result, it is possible that a profoundly central belief in Christian practice can be proven to be untrue. That is strange to me. It is one of the problems with a corporeal god, and It doesn’t seem divine in origin.
One might point out that Jesus’ bodily resurrection cannot be proven. And I would agree that that fact is important to consider. However, it is not important in ascribing any truth to the story. On the contrary, the fact that Jesus’ bodily resurrection cannot be proved only adds to the strangeness of the story as being about and of God. There are certainly a number of beliefs that cannot be proven – like, for instance, the existence of God. But it is important to realize that those beliefs also cannot be disproven. That’s what makes them beliefs or items of faith. Those crazy leaps of faith we all take – from “there is no god” to “we are all reincarnated” – are precisely that, purely elements of faith. The story of Jesus though is not so purely an element of faith; it can be disproven.
So why believe it? Is it taking the easy way out because if you are wrong to believe it you at least have a chance of finding out? Where’s the faith in that? And, maybe more importantly, why would an all-powerful (etc. etc.) God decide to switch from a position that was purely one of faith to one that is only half faith? It seems to be a position of weakness, one that has downside without corresponding upside. I suppose that could be a key to the story. But in any case, it is certainly strange to me.
(I was watching a program about the life of Jesus last night and this concept dawned on me for the first time.)