Let’s be frank: Christianity, by and large, isn’t the easiest of religions to be terribly confident about… and I’m proud to say, it just got a lot worse. You see, Christians have a problem; a brightly coloured, stunningly awkward complication hidden away right in the very foundation slab of their religion, but it’s not the kind of problem you’re probably thinking of. Yes, there is the slew of grossly amateurish script continuity blunders, the bumbling admission that god somehow miraculously missed every cultural, political and scientific hotbed of the day, the plagiarising of older messianic plotlines, the fact that no historian, satirist, or court record keeper seemed to have noticed the stories hero, and the somewhat embarrassing realisation that this god-man, Jesus, failed to say anything new or even marginally useful. As troubling as all these blotches are for the bright-eyed apologist the needle I’m talking about here is far more damaging to the everyday functioning of the religion, and it all has to do with evidence. Not the absence of evidence, that hole is plain to see, rather the evidence which the authors of story tell us Jesus went out of his way to provide on his forty-day Judean zombie walkabout.
Here’s the story as presented: Jesus sacrificed himself (to himself, to save humanity from himself), was quite dead, entombed, rose 24hrs later and spent the next five weeks making appearances (six in total), then disappeared with an assurance to be back for tea and cake at some later date. Resurrection: it’s the triumphant centrepiece of Christianity, the shiny supernatural event around which the church is built, and without it there isn’t a religion. The character defeats death, and to prove it he furnished his living congregation with irrefutable evidence.
Did you see the problem? Did you spot it whooshing past like a startled teenager bolting naked from his girlfriend’s bedroom? Here it is again in slow motion: Jesus spent forty days running about proving to his mates that he’d pulled off a David Copperfield. Now one more time in extra super-slow motion: Jesus produced evidence. “To them He presented Himself alive after His passion by many proofs,” wrote the author of Luke (Acts 1:3), then says that Jesus appeared to the disciples and ate with them just to demonstrate that he was flesh and bones. “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have.” Even more specifically, in John there is the famous account of Doubting Thomas; a story that is at once a direct appeal to, and presentation of, proof. “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop being unbelieving but become believing.” Evidence, it seems, wasn’t just important to Jesus, it was essential. So much so that he delayed his departure from the earthly plateau, not to say anything new, but rather to provide stone-cold hard evidence of the supernatural event. In fact, the character sets a pretty clear standard for what that evidence should be. It had to be physical, verifiable, observable, and it had to be testable as displayed in the story of Thomas who is encouraged to poke and prod at the human specimen.
Now this begs the question: if Jesus didn’t expect his own disciples to believe without evidence why then is “faith” (belief without evidence) the central tenet of Christianity? Look at the story and Jesus is in fact quite clearly antagonistic to Christian articles of faith, working instead to establish belief with evidence. Not to beat a dead horse, but if faith had been the linchpin of belief (as any Christian polemicist would have you believe) then surely Christianity’s central character would never have wasted time prancing about Judea proving the resurrection. The very fact that he did (according to the story) raises some appalling problems for the Christian saddled with nothing but their faith, because faith (we’re told) contradicts the eight-letter word which Jesus quite conspicuously thought indispensible to belief: EVIDENCE.