How does an agnostic describe Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
The main point of this chapter of John Humphrys’s book I want to comment on is something he says in response to Cargo Cults. After describing them, he says we might find them to be ludicrous, but imagine going back in time and having to explain Christianity to people of the past. What would it look like?
I can assure you that my explanation would be nothing like what Humphrys says. This is a large part of the problem. Humphrys knows intelligent Christians. He could have easily ran this by them and all of them I am sure would have said “I don’t believe that!” Naturally, he didn’t. The description is too long to quote entirely, but as I read it, I didn’t recognize the worldview that I was reading.
He says that your God had His Son born of a virgin (Which I do affirm) and yet He was somehow the Son of God despite that, and He is a God of love who loves so much He had His own Son brutally killed to atone for everyone’s sins, but this was good since after He died He rose again and ascended into Heaven. Even if you are a non-Christian, just look at that introduction even. Does that sound anyway like how a Christian would present their message?
Let’s say something about this God of love part. Yes. God is a God of love, but the problem is so many people think He’s JUST love. Consider marriage as an example. Love is foundational to a marriage and greatly important, but while everything revolves around love, it is not just love. It’s building a life together, planning out finances, deciding about children, having a healthy sex life, learning to deal with conflict, etc.
As for what happened to Jesus, it is so much more than that. It is also about Jesus being the king of the world. Jesus is now the judge sitting at the right hand of God who will return to judge the world, but for now He rules and we are all to be in service to Him.
Okay, but that’s it. Right? That’s not so bad. Oh no. Humphrys has more to say.
He goes on to say you eat his body and blood which is not really His body and blood and it’s not one God, but three, because there is Father, Son, and a Holy Spirit. When asked about sacrifices, you say that they are not needed, but if you were honest, your God is also a mass-murderer and that millions have been killed in the name of His religion. As for blasphemers, Humphrys decides to switch to what you might say about Muslims and concludes your listeners might wonder who is primitive and who is civilized.
Except this isn’t an honest representation. It’s entirely a straw man. Humphrys would balk if we presented evolution as from goo to the zoo and then to you. Not only that, but he would be right to do so. Your opponents should be presented in their best light. That Humphrys doesn’t do this leads me to conclude he’s not really honest in his presentation.
On a minor point, he does have a comment about the Shroud of Turin which he says is a fake. Unfortunately, this is something still hotly debated and I have numerous books I can refer to that make a compelling case for the Shroud being authentic. Would it have killed Humphrys to consider presenting the case?
Finally, one statement he does get right a professor of divinity or an archbishop to know that if Jesus did not rise body and soul from the dead, then He is a mere mortal. There might be a great church in His name today, but He is a mortal, and he rightly quotes Paul saying that if Christ is not risen we are still in our sins. At least that much is right.
When we return to this work, Humphrys will start talking about the state of the nation.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)