Frustrated. Conflicted. Doubt starting to set in. A desire to stand firm in the faith met with the reality of feeling outnumbered without an answer to give.
This is how a friend described a recent situation at his work. A coworker had brought up a question about Christianity and as soon as he didn’t know the answers it felt like the wolves had him surrounded. The question itself might surprise you; it wasn’t concerning a social, moral, or creation issue, but rather one of legitimacy, Jesus’ legitimacy:
“Was Jesus a copycat? Is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus just elements pieced together from non-Christian myths.”
These are good questions, questions all people should wrestle with in studying the Bible. All of the Christian faith rises and falls with the identity and actions of Jesus Christ.
As Paul wrote,
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. – 1 Corinthians 15:14,17
Christ as a real historical person with a real resurrection is a big deal, and while this question seems to strike against this reality, it is not unanswerable; and with further examination, it is not worth the heartache of my friend.
Professor, writer, and speaker, Dr. Sean McDowell, discusses his personal struggle with this same question. He shares:
“But the biggest issue that really tripped me up was the claim that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was copied from the mystery religions of the ancient near east.
Adonis. Mithras. Osiris. Attis. As the story goes, these various pagan deities pre-date the historical Jesus and have remarkable similarities to the Gospel accounts. There are claims of virgin births, twelve followers, teachings in parables, working of miracles, and resurrections. Could Christianity have borrowed from these claims?”
Dr. McDowell goes on to share three helpful responses to this question. (Which you can read in full here).
In the end, not only did doing the work help him to answer this tough question, but, in his own words, he discovered that “rather than descending into a period of doubt, I know that a good answer can be found if I am willing to track it down.”
Micah Guy is an associate pastor at South Shores Church. He has an M.Div from Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA.