Comments: opinion

The assumption in Mark Goodacre's piece is that if we were confronted with incontrovertible evidence, it would be human nature to not only accept it as fact, but to change one's life accordingly. That approach questions the historicity of the apostolic record (which may be valid), but does very little to question our own motives in doing so, e.g. moral inertia.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, at least, rings true with what we know of human nature. 'Neither will they believe, though one should rise from the dead'

1. We know what goodness is, especially because we can be and have been or seen the recipients of it. Our consciences are challenged to demonstrate it to others impartially, generously and without the usual charity fanfare through our own resources.
2. We fall short of that full-time commitment to which we should aspire. Even if we put side God's law, we continually miss the mark of our own consciences.
3. We try to exonerate our self-serving partiality in neighbourly kindness with the question 'and who is my neighbour?'
4. If we were desperate to improve, we would give greater effort to finding a cure.
5. Actually, our primary effort is to relieve ourselves of obligation by impugning the authority of Christ.
6. Christ did not demand that the Jewish lawyer accept His messianic claims. He simply challenged him to a level of goodness that transcended popular prejudices. 'Go thou and do likewise'.
7. Of course, it's easier to dismiss any belief that would make our moral inertia inexcusable. So, we demand a higher level of historical proof than required of testimony in a capital murder trial.

As Paul said, 'If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater'. Too true!

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 9 June 2012 at 2:33pm BST

Here endeth the First (but not the last) Lesson!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 10 June 2012 at 10:59am BST

Moral inertia? Well, yes, it exists, of that there's no doubt, but I have a feeling that to focus on same is to miss something faintly important.

I think it's Bunyan who observes that morality and Christianity are not at all the same - Pilgrim is encouraged to go and dwell in the village of Morality 'to be sure there thou shalt live by honest neighbours, in credit and good fashion.'

Morality wholly fails to pick up the concept of metanoia, restricting it to something which largely concerns the regions between knee and navel, and therefore subverts the Gospel.

Christianity must not be true because it unsettles the whole set of human self-assumptions, including those of 'morality'. To lose one's life in God is far more unsettling a challenge than nit-picking about morals. Morality's easy, you don't need Christ for that (though I am aware of the lively debate among philosophers on whether an external point of reference is essential to an ethical code). Christianity, if it is 'true' turns the universe upside down (for reference, read RS Thomas, for example). That's why people want to find it based on a falsehood.

Posted by david rowett at Sunday, 10 June 2012 at 8:01pm BST


You're absolutely right. The rich young ruler exclaimed that he had kept the law from childhood. Following the external observances of morality was easy for him.

'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' exposed the darling idol of his soul, his wealth.

It was a call to lose the life that he loved for a greater promise beyond the life that he knew. That involves reliance on an unrealized hope and that's one large step beyond the worldly reassurances with which we insulate ourselves.

Our own challenge as the body of Christ is to be able to exclaim, even as flawed as Peter was, 'Lord, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" Anything less is merely mouthing the gospel, so probably my silly nest-egg for a future rainy day will have to go to someone for whom it rains today.

Must learn to travel light.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 10 June 2012 at 11:52pm BST

It is a bit like the professor Richard Dawkins gospel: we must rule out the supernatural because science only deals with the material world and then go on to conclude that science proves that God does not exist.

So in this case, we discount the best sources of Jesus because of the - " its supernatural therefore it must be myth" - and then write "historical" accounts based on conjecture and very thin references outside scripture - and the few facts were are willing to permit from scripture. Of course it is a good source of income for some academics - and denies people the true picture of His love.

Posted by david wilson at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 5:47pm BST
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