I read a post over at Thomas Verenna’s blog tonight that I found very interesting. He had been discussing the historicity of the gospels with a friend recently, and at one point he posed these two questions:
(a) It *may* be true that portrayals of ancient figures have some historical kernels, but not always. How would one prove that a portrayal of someone is the same as one’s historical figure?
(b) It *may* be true that the portrayals in the gospels of the disciples are either somewhat or wholly based upon historical events; but how — that is, by what criteria — can one determine which event is historical and which isn’t?
I found that to be a very succinct way of stating how I view the reliability of the gospels — actually, the Bible in its entirety. If we agree that parts of it are suspect or even downright incorrect, how do we determine which parts are trustworthy? With other ancient texts, we tend to assume that the miraculous portions are not as reliable, but we usually give credence to the other portions, unless they’re contested by a better source. But with religions, the opposite seems to happen. We (some of us) acknowledge that the Bible is historically inaccurate in places, yet some of these same people choose to believe that the miracles did happen.
In some ways, I understand why some people want to believe Christianity is true — at least certain parts of it. But I have trouble understanding how they can actually believe it once they become aware of some of its problems. I mean, I’d like to believe that Santa Claus is real. Who wouldn’t want to believe in a kind, selfless individual who loves everyone and brings them gifts once a year? But (spoiler alert) he’s not real, and I can’t force myself to believe in him just because it would be nice. That’s why I have trouble with the a la cart method of religion where you pick and choose the parts you like and just ignore the parts you don’t. To me, it’s all one big package. And taken in its entirety, it just doesn’t make sense to me.