The story of Jesus (as told by an unbeliever)

In a discussion with a friend at work the conversation took a turn between my belief and his unbelief. We began to talk about the story of Jesus and this was his explanation of it.

“Jesus may have been a real man in history however to believe in him a a supernatural deity is unnecessary. I think Jesus was a cool guy with wonderful ideas. However, over time his story got changed and supernatural attributes were given to him. I can compare this to several things. First, lets go with UFO’s. You say that the story of Jesus can be confirmed based on eyewitness accounts of the apostles or others and that this is enough evidence of his divinity through the miracles he performed to prove this. Well, people today have video evidence of UFO’s and yet it would be foolish to say they exist as alien contact with earth. It is typically people misunderstanding what it is they see and blowing it out of proportion. Next, I can attribute anything you have to say about Jesus to Santa Claus. So you say his story was originally based on a real person? As time went on supernatural powers were given to him? He constantly watches me and if I’m a good person he rewards me? Do any of those sound familiar? Last, the only thing that shows Jesus’ divinity is the miracles he performed. These are illogical to believe in as well since these things supposedly happened during his time and now they don’t happen any more at all. Sure people claim that miracles happen today, but if someone walks up to you and says they experienced a miracle you would probably look at them as though they were crazy. Miracles cannot be recreated in any controlled scientific environment and are complete contradictions to the laws of nature, therefore they cannot be real.”

I may have left out a couple words from the conversation for the sake of cleanliness (i.e. cursing) however these are his words. I will leave out my side of they arguament as I am curious of the thoughts of my fellow catholic and non catholic brothers and sisters.

In a discussion with a friend at work the conversation took a turn between my belief and his unbelief. We began to talk about the story of Jesus and this was his explanation of it.

“Jesus may have been a real man in history however to believe in him a a supernatural deity is unnecessary. I think Jesus was a cool guy with wonderful ideas. However, over time his story got changed and supernatural attributes were given to him. I can compare this to several things. First, lets go with UFO’s. You say that the story of Jesus can be confirmed based on eyewitness accounts of the apostles or others and that this is enough evidence of his divinity through the miracles he performed to prove this. Well, people today have video evidence of UFO’s and yet it would be foolish to say they exist as alien contact with earth. It is typically people misunderstanding what it is they see and blowing it out of proportion. Next, I can attribute anything you have to say about Jesus to Santa Claus. So you say his story was originally based on a real person? As time went on supernatural powers were given to him? He constantly watches me and if I’m a good person he rewards me? Do any of those sound familiar? Last, the only thing that shows Jesus’ divinity is the miracles he performed. These are illogical to believe in as well since these things supposedly happened during his time and now they don’t happen any more at all. Sure people claim that miracles happen today, but if someone walks up to you and says they experienced a miracle you would probably look at them as though they were crazy. Miracles cannot be recreated in any controlled scientific environment and are complete contradictions to the laws of nature, therefore they cannot be real.”

I may have left out a couple words from the conversation for the sake of cleanliness (i.e. cursing) however these are his words. I will leave out my side of they arguament as I am curious of the thoughts of my fellow catholic and non catholic brothers and sisters. :smiley:

One problem I see is the complete lack of faith.
Another problem I see is the “if i don’t see it with my own eyes, it must not be true”
fallacy.
The church fathers were credible people and the enormous faith they held is only one example of a testament to Christanity.

The desire for absolute validity puts the wisdom and conjectures of humanity above the truth established by the lord and his church.

Not only was he a cool guy with wonderful ideas, he also claimed to be God.

I suppose we could claim that this incident was a later attribute, but how then do we choose what really is and what is not an original idea?

Also, don’t we have records of when the Gospels were actually written?
Wouldn’t this record show that there have not been things added to his life?

Well, I will not be very worry about what he said: is a typical atheist or scientist answer.

You will be surprise about the argument I had with a Catholic Filipino priest who did not believe in the miracles of Jesus. I also have found in orders priests who gave explanations to Jesus’ miracles. You can not argue with these people (of course I did because, these were priest). Put your faith in God and pray that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 may come because they come making amazing miracles and people like this will be put to shame for their unbelief.
Jesus gave his followers the power to make miracles, but you have to live the life He lived. He said we will do greater things of what He did, but he also bind us to obey His word and to fast and pray. And if God thinks that for some purpose of His we need to make miracles, He will do it for you. All our lives are full of miracles or providential interventions, but real miracles also happen when is His will.

In the love of Christ and of His miracles,:love:
Gloria

.

I am studying a series by Fr. Barron who I think put it very succinctly, either Jesus was who he says he is or he was a dangerous madman. There is no in between. The answer to ‘Who do you say that I am?’ defines how we live this life. He speaks much more elliquently than I can write. I would encourage you to look into his DVD series on Catholocism.
Peace.

As a theologian I actually do have to admit his argument is founded in logic. I do not believe Muhammad was a prophet, yet many miraculous occurrences are attributed to his intervention. I do not believe the founder of the moonies to be the second coming, but their members would swear to the divine nature of their founding couple.

The emperors of Rome were often deified after death and the imperial cult revered them as divinities, so there is a model that began and continued long after time of Christ.

It is a sound argument, but out of all the religions I have studied I find Christianity to be the most compelling. There are just some things you won’t find down a microscope, faith is one of them.

I agree - it is not necessary to believe in him as a deity…so long as you are willing to accept the consequences of being wrong…

I think Jesus was a cool guy with wonderful ideas. However, over time his story got changed and supernatural attributes were given to him.

This is opinion…I wold say that he probably has less “proof” of this than we do of Jesus in history and being who he says he is.
Take for example the fact that so many were willing to die rather than recant…

I can compare this to several things. First, lets go with UFO’s. You say that the story of Jesus can be confirmed based on eyewitness accounts of the apostles or others and that this is enough evidence of his divinity through the miracles he performed to prove this. Well, people today have video evidence of UFO’s and yet it would be foolish to say they exist as alien contact with earth.

Why foolish??

It is typically people misunderstanding what it is they see and blowing it out of proportion.

True and yet there are some that are truly unexplainable…Why dismiss them - and the possibility?

Next, I can attribute anything you have to say about Jesus to Santa Claus. So you say his story was originally based on a real person? As time went on supernatural powers were given to him? He constantly watches me and if I’m a good person he rewards me? Do any of those sound familiar?

Sure - but then much of what is attributed to Santa Claus is actually based on Christian principles. It actually strengthens rather than diminishes Christianity.

Last, the only thing that shows Jesus’ divinity is the miracles he performed. These are illogical to believe in as well since these things supposedly happened during his time and now they don’t happen any more at all.

Again - a statement without proof. Just go to Lourdes.

Sure people claim that miracles happen today, but if someone walks up to you and says they experienced a miracle you would probably look at them as though they were crazy.

Here he makes an assumption about how you would react. Maybe he knows you well enough…maybe not. Most likely he is simply declaring how HE would react to someone saying they experienced a miracle.

Miracles cannot be recreated in any controlled scientific environment and are complete contradictions to the laws of nature, therefore they cannot be real."

Shows severely limited thinking…The greatest miracles are miracles precisely BECAUSE they cannot be recreated in a scientific way.

I may have left out a couple words from the conversation for the sake of cleanliness (i.e. cursing) however these are his words. I will leave out my side of they argument as I am curious of the thoughts of my fellow catholic and non catholic brothers and sisters. :smiley:

Well here are my thoughts…for what they are worth.
As far as an actual discussion goes, there is little for you to latch on to so probably best to just let the matter drop.

Peace
James

Yes, this is pretty much the standard reasoning of unbelievers. On the surface it does seem to be logical. Yet, if you dig a little deeper and start asking more questions, it breaks down.
For instance, who would have made up a God like Jesus? No Jew would have ever made up a God who became a man–the very idea is disturbing to most Jews. And no pagan polytheist would have ever made up a religion based upon one God who is Supreme and calls us to surrender our own will and the seeking of worldly power and pleasure.

Does a “cool guy with wonderful ideas” go around claiming to God if he really isn’t? Wouldn’t someone with that idea seem more like the biggest liar in the history of the world?

Also, according to scholars, the books of the NT were written not long after the historically agreed upon death of Jesus. The first letter to the Thessalonians is believed to have been written only 20 years after Jesus’ death. All of the major supernatural claims of Christianity are in there. 20 years isn’t a long time. Most of the people who knew him were probably still alive. This is unique in the history of religious figures. Most legends surrounding religious figures spring up much later than 20 years.

Skeptics point to other “crucified saviors” as proof that Jesus is just another god figure. But where are all of these “saviors” now? Why is Jesus the only crucified savior to come out of the ancient world and still have millions of followers today, 2,000 years later? Why does no one credit any of these figures with changing their lives and helping them get through years of painful trials?

These are just a few of the many questions that need to be asked.

I have a website that deals with these and many other common charges and questions of unbelievers. Christianity is a reasonable religion but sometimes we have to suspend our bias to see that reason.

Check it out:

see-the-big-picture.org/

I would say whether or not you believe miracles happen depends on your definition of ‘miracle.’ From an atheist perspective supernatural events inspired by a deity do not happen, but it cannot be argued nothing miraculous happens.

A ‘miracle’ may be defined as simply an awesome or wondrous event that cannot be explained. These things happen all the time. I have seen many documentaries about people who have survived the most traumatic things and their survival is called nothing short of a ‘miracle.’ I saw a documentary about a baby who was pronounced dead, and after two hours literally came back to life. I’m sure can google it to find the story. Doctors could not explain it. It was described as a ‘miracle.’

People talk about the ‘miracle’ of nature - photosynthesis, migrating birds, ant and bee colonies. What about this guy Dynamo? How did he make hundreds of fish come out of an empty bucket? It had nothing to do with God, but how did he do it? Dynamo walked on water.

It is quite possible Jesus performed what were perceived by his audience as ‘miracles,’ but today may not be considered miracles. It is also possible to explain Jesus miracles without attributing them to possession of a supernatural power.

Consider Jairus’ daughter. Jesus said she was not dead but sleeping. Is it possible she was in a coma? It is a fact in the past people in comas were buried alive. Consider the healing of the blind. On occasion they are reported to have been healed instantly. On another occasion Jesus puts clay on a blind man’s eyes and his sight is gradually restored. Walking on water - did Jesus know there were sandbanks he could stand on? Healing the boy possessed by a demon - did the boy have epilepsy? These things would have seemed ‘miraculous’ to the audience.

This may sound very disturbing in that it could be construed I am arguing Jesus was not God and had no supernatural powers. As Catholic, I believe he was God and all the miracles he performed cannot be explained away. But, what I would say to an atheist is even if Jesus miracles can be explained as outlined above, and they are not reported in the bible in exactly the way the happened, Jesus possessed insight and skill no one else at that time did possess. People marveled at his teaching - even his enemies. There was something very special about Jesus. He changed the world and that cannot argued, and it is a ‘miracle’ in the 21st century he continues to be a hot topic with millions of followers.

Yes, this is pretty much the standard reasoning of unbelievers. On the surface it does seem to be logical. Yet, if you dig a little deeper and start asking more questions, it breaks down.
For instance, who would have made up a God like Jesus? No Jew would have ever made up a God who became a man–the very idea is disturbing to most Jews. And no pagan polytheist would have ever made up a religion based upon one God who is Supreme and calls us to surrender our own will and the seeking of worldly power and pleasure.

Does a “cool guy with wonderful ideas” go around claiming to be God if he really isn’t? Wouldn’t he seem more like the biggest liar in the history of the world?

Also, according to scholars, the books of the NT were written not long after the historically agreed upon death of Jesus. The first letter to the Thessalonians is believed to have been written only 20 years after Jesus’ death. All of the major supernatural claims of Christianity are in there. 20 years isn’t a long time. Most of the people who knew him were probably still alive. This is unique in the history of religious figures. Most legends surrounding religious figures spring up much later than 20 years.

Skeptics point to other “crucified saviors” as proof that Jesus is just another god figure. But where are all of these “saviors” now? Why is Jesus the only crucified savior to come out of the ancient world and still have millions of followers today? Why does no one credit any of these figures with changing their lives and helping them get through years of painful trials?

And then there is the problem of equating those who claim a miracle and were obviously seeking attention or money and a very public miracle such as the miracle of the sun at Fatima which was witnessed by over 70,000 people, including members of the secular government. (or with the Lourdes apparition) Bernadette and the children at Fatima were not seeking attention or money. They were humble and honest and did not recant even in the face of great persecution and threats of a painful death. These events can’t logically be relegated to the “oh, they were probably just making up it” bin.

These are just a few of the many questions that need to be asked.

I have a website that deals with these and many other common charges and questions of unbelievers. I know the questions well because I used to not believe. Christianity is a reasonable religion but sometimes we have to suspend our bias to see that reason.

Check it out:

see-the-big-picture.org/

So would you say it’s impossible to give a sound argument back about the divinity of Christ? If not, what would your response be?

Oh it’s perfectly possible to give a sound argument on almost anything, it’s getting people to believe what you can’t personally demonstrate that’s the main issue! It’s why being Charismatic or seen to be a good person are essential qualities in a missionary.

I can’t recall who said it (Mother Teresa perhaps?) but there is a saying; “Unless you are looking for God in everything you wont find him anywhere”. If your friend is open to the idea of a God it may be quite possible to convince him of the divinity of Christ. But a professed Atheist?

I would probably ask why he would like me to demonstrate a concept he has already made up his mind about.

Last, the only thing that shows Jesus’ divinity is the miracles he performed. These are illogical to believe in as well since these things supposedly happened during his time and now they don’t happen any more at all. Sure people claim that miracles happen today, but if someone walks up to you and says they experienced a miracle you would probably look at them as though they were crazy. Miracles cannot be recreated in any controlled scientific environment and are complete contradictions to the laws of nature, therefore they cannot be real."

The miracles performed by Christ through his followers, the canonized Saints, undergo a testing process that relies on some of the best leading medical experts in the world today to prove that the miracle cannot be explained through natural processes. That is why what appear to be miracles involving certain categories - mental illnesses, substance abuse, blindness (which could be hysterical) aren’t even considered as evidence.

The argument that is often advanced by unbelievers that miracles contradict “the laws of nature” and so cannot be real is nonsense. “The Laws of Nature,” a Victorian-era concept, is actually just a probabilistic description of how physical phenomena act in a strictly defined set of circumstances. If I introduce an outside factor that is not described in the equation, you are not violating any law, you are just describing a new set of circumstances. In the absence of an outside force, a ball dropped from a height will fall to the earth, per the Law of Gravity. I I reach out and catch it, that’s not a violation of the Law of Gravity - it’s just a new set of circumstances. There is NO “law of nature” that proscribes the existence of God (can your friend cite one?), nor the possibility of His intrusion into the world we know, only a bias for methodological naturalism.

As to his argument that “miracles cannot be recreated in a controlled scientific environment,” and so can’t be true, that’s utter balderdash. Science examines all sorts of very rare phenomena that can’t be recreated in a controlled scientific environment, such as supernovae. As in the review of miracles in the canonization process, science can and does examine miraculous events without being able to disprove them.

Mike, thank you for the thoughtful response I will certainly do more reading. Do you have any recommendations on books about the process the church goes through in verifying miracles or general further reading on any of the topics covered above?

Zieg217, check out “The Miracle Detective” by Randall Sullivan, a *Rolling Stone *journalist. Much of it is concerned with Medjugorje, but the early chapters discuss the review process for miracles for the canonization process, along with some pretty amazing modern examples.

this has always bothered me. it’s a copout answer.

changinglivesonline.org/solitary-life.html

If Jesus was just a “cool dude” this would not have happened.

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

Dr James Allan © 1926.

Christianity is about a relationship with a risen saviour

Jesus has had more impact on mankind for good than any other person
LIVES THAT HAVE BEEN CHANGED BY BELIEVING IN THE HISTORICAL JESUS CHRIST

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.