Friday, October 24, 2008

Religulous with Bill Maher

I just got back from China and realized again the value of always being able to give an answer, a reason, for the hope that lies within you. I got off the plane and the first thing I started hearing about was Religulous, a movie starring Bill Maher, as he interviews people with the purpose of, as he told Larry King the other day, harpooning the whale of religion once and for all. Religion to him is what is poisoning our society and that whale has to be harpooned. He brings up all kinds of reasons why Christianity is no longer tenable in an age of Scientific Enlightenment. It is dead according to him.

In fact, according to him religious ideas such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ are merely barrowed from ancient pagan mystery religions, such as Krishna of India, Mithras of Greece, and Horus of Egypt. Well, is that true? Did Christianity borrow from ancient pagan mystery religions? Is Bill Maher correct?

The truth of the matter is this; Krishna was not born of a virgin. Krishna was born according to that mythology to a mother who had seven previous sons, hardly a virgin. Mithras was born of a rock, well maybe the rock was a virgin, and we got to give Maher the benefit of the doubt. In terms of Horus, Isis is said to have had intercourse with Osiris after he had been cut into fourteen pieces and his reproductive organs were swallowed by a fish; again, hardly a virgin birth account like the virgin birth account in Scripture.

While it is currently popular to suggest that the gospel writers borrowed the virgin birth motif from pagan mythology, the facts simply say otherwise. Stories of gods having sexual intercourse with women, such as the sun god Apollo becoming a snake and impregnated the mother of Augustus Caesar, hardly parallel the virgin birth account. Moreover, given the strict Monotheistic view of the New Testament authors it should stretch credulity beyond the breaking point to suppose they borrowed from pagan mythology; especially mythologies extolling the sexual exploits of pagan gods.

It has become all too common for people to buy into what has been well described as a unique brand of fundamentalism. A brand of fundamentalism that values rhetoric and emotional stereotypes over reason and evidential substance. Those who suppose that the virgin birth is mythology would be well served to consider defensible argument rather than uncritically swallowing dogmatic assertions. Dogmatic assertions are exactly what you get in Religulous, not defensible arguments.


cbaggettjr said...

This entry would have been a great opportunity to plug Lee Strobel's "Case for the Real Jesus." It hits a home run debunking all these radical hypotheses. Another cool book, besides the Bible, is Josh McDowell's "The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict." Norman Geisler's "Christian Apologetics" is outstanding as well. Even the Biblical Legacy section in your study Bible discredits a great deal of these attacks from radical atheists such as Maher, Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. There is plenty of material out there, folks, to expose the inerrant theories of these poor, misguided people.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Hank. Bill Maher is just as obnoxious as the right-wingers he ridicules, just as closed-minded and superficial.

I would like to bring up an issue that Maher maybe touched on.

I have heard you answer this many times on the radio, but there is one part of your answer where I'm still missing a detail. (I would call in and ask this question, but I'm usually listen when I am in my car, and I don't want to phone will driving.)

On the question of people who have never heard the Gospel you answer:
1. They have the light of creation
2. They have the light of conscience.
3. If they respond to the light they have, "the light of Christ will shine on them."

Here's the part I don't understand. If you mean they will hear the same gospel we hear, i.e. the story of Jesus, that he died on the cross for our sins, rose again, etc., then it would either have to come in one of two forms:
1) a messenger "sent" to proclaim the gospel (either in person, or even in the form of a NT or a broadcast, etc)--the normal way, according to Romans 10. OR
2) a special visitation by Christ himself, an angel, etc.

The problem with 1) is there certainly have been whole nations excluded from this kind of witness.
The problem with 2) is it seems unbiblical or at least not biblically normative, and if it happens at all, it is so rare we never hear about it, it never leads to the planting of a church, etc.

And I'm not sure if you mean one of these two options. Two other options that make sense to me are
1) some concept of fides implicita--that is, some awareness of the grace of God appears to them, and God accepts their acceptance of the grace of God as the equivalent of accepting Christ.
OR 2) there will be a post-mortem visitation. That is, after they die but before the judgment they will meet Christ--the one they have groped after and longed for, and will have the opportunity to explicitly acknowledge him. I suppose 1) and 2) could be combined in some way.

I find some support for 1) including: the statement in Romans 2 that to those who "seek honor, glory, and immortality, God will give eternal life." I know this is usually taken as a hypothetical impossible case--but I don't see why it has to be. P. doesn't say "those who obey the law perfectly," but "those who seek . . ." It's true that Paul in Rom 3 quotes the Psalm that says "there is none that seeks God," but that could mean on their own initiative, apart from God's grace that seeks us first (even in the form of the light of conscience and creation) and Acts 17 implies that we could seek God in response to his goodness displayed in creation.

I also find support for it in the fact that Abraham and all the saints of the OT (including many righteous Gentiles) did not know Jesus by name, and did not know the specifics of his death on the cross, but they were justified by the same faith that justifies us.

Anyway, Hank, this is a serious question. I would like you to clarify here or on the radio some time what you mean by the light of Christ--do you mean explicit knowledge of the Gospel attained in this lifetime, or do you mean some kind of equivalent, something like the experience of the Old Testament believers?

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that one who is of God and spiritual has developed an outlet for individuals or companys don't agree with your percieved beliefs. Doesn't being spiritual fulfill you with a sense of humbleness? It wasn't more than 50 or so years ago that people were killed for differences of religous beliefs, attacking those opposed to yours is the same thing, don't you think? As opposed to the public display of punishment its done with intellectual property.

Let me ask you something. Are you so identified with the thought that if you let it go you will essentially lose a big piece of yourself? Are you incapable of being self-aware and objective to let your percieved set of belifs, mental labels, and self applied identity that will uncontaminate your somewhat hateful mind to those that don't agree with you. How can one have absolute truth if one cannot be objective about all things?

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Anonymous said...

Just wondering what your comments would be on this refutation of Lee Strobel. Thank you.