Many people reject Christianity’s place in daily life and dismiss it out of hand. Although the 2011 census shows that more than three out of ten Australians are still Christians, it is of practical significance to the daily lifestyle choices and patterns to a minority. More than 20% of people now state that they have no religion.
Let’s have a closer look at the reasons commonly given for the increasing preference for atheism and agnosticism today. These can be summarised as reliability, relevance and reasonableness.
It is important to establish, first, that Christianity is historically credible. Although most people don’t stumble on the historical existence of a person called Jesus, what is also important is the fact that His miraculous resurrection, the cornerstone of Christian faith, is not opposed in first century writings. Jews and Romans would have had a vested interest in suppressing the testimony of the 500 witnesses to the Resurrection claimed in 1 Corinthians 15:6, yet these are never exposed. Furthermore, first century Roman and Jewish writers (Tacitus, Pliny, Josephus, etc.) speak of Jesus’ existence. Portions of the New Testament can be dated to within a generation of His presence on earth which is considered exceptional proof to back the verbal testimony, by ancient standards.
The existence of Pilate has been corroborated by an inscription found with his name and extrabiblical sources. Claims of discrepancies between biblical accounts are based on unnecessarily forced interpretations (e.g. Judas’ death by hanging in Matthew 27:5 could have preceded a fall and a bursting of his corpse in Acts 1:18). The sheer number of specific prophecies already known before Christ’s coming but fulfilled by His life lifetime make it a virtual certainty that He was the promised Messiah, from a statistical point-of-view alone.
The fact that many died for the occurrence and significance of this event in the early years of Christianity in Rome cannot be underestimated as another contributor to the reliability of the New Testament account. After all, who would die for a lie? They couldn’t all have been deceived.