As Jesus is getting a lot of focus around Resurrection Sunday, many lies and myths have turned him into an androgynous icon of the secular humanist liberal theologian. In the article linked above, Andrew Sullivan again tries to paint a picture of Jesus as apolitical. It is no wonder Sullivan admires the unorthodox Christianity of Thomas Jefferson over the “evangelical” Christianity of George Washington, John Adams, and Patrick Henry. Sullivan betrays himself as a secular humanist and says so many incorrect things that it would take a long time to counter his lies. I trust someone more scholarly and doctrinally sound than I am will dismantle Sullivan’s secular humanism. For now I will address only a few things.
Sullivan starts his article by insisting Thomas Jefferson was a true Christian. Jefferson said “I am a real Christian. That is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” If Sullivan is correct about how Jefferson understood his faith, both have missed the mark on the purpose of Jesus’ first advent. They believe Jesus came to earth to simply establish a set of doctrines to follow. Apparently Jesus’ message was all about living a life in a certain way: without politics, without power, without property.
Sullivan continues that Jefferson’s point in erasing from his bible all the miraculous things Jesus did is to emphasize living by the doctrines of Jesus. “What does it matter how strictly you proclaim your belief in various doctrines if you do not live as these doctrines demand? What is politics if not a dangerous temptation toward controlling others rather than reforming oneself?” Sullivan’s works-based religion of “reforming oneself” completely negates the real reason Jesus came to earth: to be the substitutionary sacrifice for the atonement of our sins.
Our salvation is in not based on works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10. What Paul tells us is that “grace” is the grounds of salvation; “faith” is the means; and “works” is the goal. We are not saved by our good works. We are saved in order to do good works. But there is no salvation without the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.
Christianity is not based on the adherence to some set of doctrines as every other religion is. Christianity stands or falls on the actual, historical event of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This event is Christianity’s cornerstone. Yet, Jefferson, whom Sullivan touts, removed the resurrection from his bible. Without the actual resurrection of Jesus, following his doctrines are useless. If Christ did not rise from the dead our faith is in vain. I Corinthians 15:17. It seems Jefferson’s faith was in vain.
In Sullivan’s indictment of “evangelical” Protestantism, he makes at least two errors: 1) he denies the authority and inspiration of scripture; and 2) denies God’s authorship in the entire bible. First he states “Others defend a rigid biblical literalism, adamantly wishing away a century and a half of scholarship that has clearly shown that the canonized Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ ministry, and are copies of copies of stories told by those with fallible memory.” The length of time from Jesus’ ministry to the circulation of the texts of the books of the New Testament is an insignificant criteria for Sullivan to discredit the scriptures. Historians say that you need at least two decades to get a clearer picture of a historical event. Also, 20 years is not long enough for legends and myths to be created. There are too many witnesses still alive to counter the lies of myths. The events of the New Testament were written while the eyewitnesses were still alive.
He commits a fallacy by imputing his 21st century mentality on the 1st century man. The Jews were meticulous at copying every jot and tittle of their sacred texts correctly. Their culture was one of an oral tradition. They didn’t have electronic distractions or paper in great supply. They transmitted accurate accounts from generations to generations by word of mouth.
More evidence of the reliability of the New Testament is that we have over 24,000 manuscripts of at least portions of the New Testament, by far the most of any ancient writing. The earliest of these manuscripts dates back to the early 2nd century, less than 100 years from the original writings. Comparing all 24,000+ manuscripts together, the New Testament boasts over a 97% accuracy rating.
Looking at other ancient documents you see they fail to live up to the reliability of the New Testament. Of all ancient manuscripts the second most copies we have is of Homer’s Iliad. Scholars can only find just over 640 copies. In all of those manuscripts, there are 764 disputed lines of text, compared to only 40 in the 24,000+ New Testament manuscripts. The oldest manuscript of Julius Caesar’s The Gaelic Wars, with only 10 manuscripts, dates to 1,000 years after the original writing! Plato’s manuscripts date 1,300 years after the originals! Sullivan also seems to forget that we do not have any originals of William Shakespeare’s 37 plays, written just 400 years ago. Few argue Shakespeare’s authorship in every word of the plays.
Contrary to Sullivan’s attempt to cast doubt on the reliability, and, thus, the authority of the New Testatment, what we have today is substantially the same as what was written in the 1st century. As Ravi Zacharias said:
“In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the document, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity.”
Next Sullivan seems to reject God’s authorship in the entire bible. He said this: “The issues that Christianity obsesses over today simply do not appear in either Jefferson’s or the original New Testament. Jesus never spoke of homosexuality or abortion, and his only remarks on marriage were a condemnation of divorce (now commonplace among American Christians) and forgiveness for adultery.” He seems to think that Jesus made his first appearance on this earth in Matthew.
Let me first dismiss quickly Sullivan’s perpetuating the perception that Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians. That is a lie.
Next let me address the lie that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. I will refer you to my blog post “An Argument From the Red Letters.”
Abortion is clearly addressed in Psalms 139:13-16. David is writing the inspired words of God when he wrote “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”
The Hebrew word for the first “substance” is osme, meaning skeletal structure (also interpreted as “frame.”) The Hebrew word for the second “substance” is golme, meaning pre-skeletal structure, or as pro-abortionists like to say “a blob of tissue.” David is acknowledging that God’s thoughts are toward us, AS PERSONS, from the time we were knit together in our mothers’ wombs. Jesus, as God of the Old Testament, considers us persons in the womb. Jesus as God of the New Testament, who did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it, also considers us persons in the womb. All scripture is ordained and inspired by God, to include both the Old and New Testaments. Sullivan’s secular humanism, however, chooses to ignore God’s authorship of the entire bible.
Secular humanists who claim to be Christians make up the “secular/sacred” divide to prevent the sovereignty of God from influencing the political policy makers. Jesus owns it all. His influence should permeate every aspect of our lives including how we vote and what public policies should be enacted. But, secular humanists would rather craft their own personal “Jesus” who doesn’t really demand anything of them that they aren’t willing to yield anyway.